On November 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US adopted rules to prevent discrimination of access to broadband services based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin. Under the rules, the FCC can penalize telecom companies in the US if they fail to provide different communities with equal access to Internet services without adequate justification. The authority will consider arguments that “legitimate business impediments preclude equal access to broadband service in particular communities.” The FCC will hear complaints of digital discrimination through a consumer complaint portal and the authority’s staff will meet monthly to assess trends in complaint patterns. What is digital discrimination? FCC’s rules define digital discrimination as “Policies or practices, not justified by genuine issues of technical or economic feasibility, that (1) differentially impact consumers’ access to broadband internet access service based on their income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion or national origin, or (2) are intended to have such differential impact.” Why it matters: While these rules might seem like an attempt to minimize the digital divide between different communities, they could also potentially prevent telecom companies from engaging in predatory customization practices. Think of it this way: you are about to port your SIM from Company A to Company B. To keep you as a customer, Company A could offer you free data. On the other hand, if your balance runs out in the middle of a call, a recharge might be made available to you at a significant mark-up. Both…
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