The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

People Whom You Can Complain to Regarding the media, VoIP and Communications

The FCC listens to your complaints
The FCC listens to your complaints. Peter Dazeley / Photographer's Choice / GettyImages

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is an independent body which operates in the United States, and directly responsible to the US Congress. The role of the FCC is to regulate radio, television, wires, satellite and cable communicate within and between states of the US.

Some of the main functions of the FCC are to:

  • Educate and inform consumers and users about telecommunications goods, services and regulations.
    • Enforce and maintain regulations, such as the Communications Act.
    • Represent the US Commission in satellite and international matters.
    • Regulate radio, television and satellite broadcast stations and services.
    • Be responsible for rules and policies concerning telephone companies, including VoIP service providers.
    • Preside over law hearings and legal decisions pertaining to matters related to communication.
    • Advise the US Commission on issues and policies concerning communication businesses.

    The Scope of The FCC 

    The FCC works on different fronts. The scope in which it operates includes issues related to television services; telephony services, including Voice over IP or Internet Telephony; the Internet, its use and the provision of services related to it; radio services and what is aired on it; access for people with disabilities; and all that refers to communication in situations of emergency. On the other hand, issues related to false advertising, copyright violations, billing of utilities etc, to name just a few, fall outside the jurisdiction of the commission.

     

    Here are some scenarios in which the FCC will accept your complaints and will do something. 

    • A radio channel airs a program that contains offensive material, such as words tainted with racism, sexism or any other disturbing element. 
    • A TV program for children portrays obscenity in a way that disturbs young viewers and parents. Note that any action by the FCC will be limited to the American territory and foreign-produced shows may only be banned from being aired at most. 
    • A VoIP company refuses to have a user's number ported despite the possibility of doing so. Normally, if you switch from a traditional telephony service to a VoIP service, you may want to port your number, that is taking it over to the VoIP service so that people can still use it to call you independent of the change in service. This is called phone number portability. There is, of course, a number of requirements before this can be possible. 

    What The FCC Does in Case of Violation 

    The FCC provides channels for filing complaints regarding the issues under its jurisdiction. The best way is through their web site's complaints section, which also contains a lot of guidance notes. Once you file the complaint, you can, later on, track it throughout its progress, and review updates related to it. 

    The FCC handles complaints on a case to case basis. While not all complaints are necessarily likely to be resolved to the full satisfaction of the complainer and all parties concerned, each one of them serves as useful information in view of sensitizing parties concerned, and in being proactive. 

    The FCC does not have the power to revoke licenses or bring people to prison, although some serious cases may be handed over to authorities that can do it, but it can impose fines and affect a company's reputation.

    Normally, issues are resolved with the least 'harm' possible.