Democratic Rep ‘Deeply Concerned’ about Rosenworcel’s Bulk Billing Proposal

bulk billing

Florida Congresswoman says the proposal would harm low-income Americans

Joel Leighton Democratic Rep 'Deeply Concerned' about Rosenworcel’s Bulk Billing Proposal Photo of Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, taken from her Facebook page

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2024 – FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s plan to ban the bulk billing of Internet service in apartment buildings and other multiple dwelling units continues to draw criticism from Capitol Hill, including Democrats.

Rosenworcel’s controversial proposal, unveiled in March, caught the attention of Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Florida Democrat, who wants the agency to reconsider the ban.

“I am deeply concerned about the FCC’s recent proposal to prohibit bulk billing arrangements,” she said. “I urge the FCC to carefully consider the potential adverse effects this proposal may have on the most vulnerable segments across the country and Florida’s [20th congressional district.]”

Cherfilus-McCormick represents portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Her request came in a May 20 letter to Rosenworcel that was posted on the FCC’s website last Friday.

Rosenworcel’s proposal is aimed at giving tenants locked into exclusive internet provider contracts – negotiated between property owners and ISPs – the ability to opt-out, thus in her view promoting consumer choice and competition among providers.

Cherfilus-McCormick said that restrictions on bulk billing would unfairly impact low-income and fixed-income residents in her district, particularly seniors and veterans, who benefit from discounted prices made possible by tenants aggregating their purchasing power. 

Cherfilus-McCormick said that 50% of households in her district were part of a homeowners association or apartment community that could “benefit from bulk billing.”

In her letter, Cherfilus-McCormick reminded Rosenworcel that in a 2010 report, the FCC found that bulk billing “predominantly benefited consumers.”

Rosenworcel, in her June 10 response to Cherfilus-McCormick, indicated no change in direction at the FCC.

“A lot can change in 14 years. It is often in the public interest to reexamine long-standing policies to ensure they have kept up with changes in technology and the marketplace, especially when it comes to consumer protection and choice,” Rosenworcel said.

Rosenworcel said that the proposed rulemaking will provide an opportunity to build a record that reflects the consumer experience of today.

“This rulemaking, which I have shared with my colleagues, has the potential to empower consumer choice and boost competition, as well as build on the agency’s ongoing efforts to improve broadband transparency,” Rosenworcel said.

In April, House Democrats Rep. Darren Soto of Florida, Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Florida, Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Texas sent Rosenworcel a letter raising concerns about a bulk billing ban.

“We are concerned that this proposal would harm seniors, fixed-income individuals, and students who reside on the premises of these arrangements,” the lawmakers said.

The move has been unpopular among some industry leaders. Service providers, and even former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, have said that the opt-out option would inhibit the discounted price and result in an effective ban on bulk billing.