Open Internet Ombudsperson

The FCC's Open Internet Ombudsperson assists the public and edge providers with Open Internet complaints and inquiries, and assists the FCC with implementation of the FCC's Open Internet rules. You may want to consult the ombudsperson if you are:

  • An edge provider of content, applications or services, or of devices for accessing them, who has concerns about broadband policies and practices.
  • A consumer who has filed an Open Internet-related complaint about a broadband provider.
  • An organization with questions or complaints regarding the Open Internet.

 

The FCC and the Open Internet

The FCC and the Open Internet

The FCC's Open Internet rules protect your ability to go where you want when you want online. Broadband service providers cannot block or deliberately slow speeds for Internet services or apps, create special "fast lanes" for content, or engage in other practices that harm Internet openness. This principle is often referred to as "net neutrality."

The rules protect and maintain open, uninhibited access to lawful online content. They specifically prohibit:

  • Blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.
  • Throttling: Broadband providers may not deliberately target some lawful Internet traffic to be delivered to users more slowly than other traffic.
  • Paid prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some Internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind; in other words, no "fast lanes." Internet service providers are also banned from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.

The rules also put in place standards going forward to ensure that ISPs cannot engage in new or different practices - outside those three prohibitions - that would cause similar harms to the Open Internet.

The FCC's Open Internet Transparency Rule empowers consumers to make informed choices about broadband services. The rule requires that what providers tell you about their broadband service is sufficient for you to make informed choices, including choices about speed and price. The rule also requires that providers' information about their broadband service must be accurate and truthful.

The transparency rule covers disclosures about "network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of service." The rule applies to service descriptions, including expected and actual broadband speed and latency. The rule also applies to pricing, including monthly prices, usage-based fees, and any other additional fees that consumers may be charged. Additionally, it covers providers' network management practices, such as congestion management practices and the types of traffic subject to those practices.

The FCC monitors how well providers disclose the broadband speed they give consumers, and at what price, and is concerned about providers who make false, misleading or deceptive statements to consumers about the services they provide.

The Open Internet rules apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service to protect your access to the Internet.

Learn more about the FCC and the Open Internet, as well as the Open Internet Transparency Rule.

Ombudsperson Overview

Ombudsperson Overview
IMPARTIAL INDEPENDENT PERSPECTIVE CONFIDENTIAL
The Open Internet Ombudsperson does not advocate for one side, but works for a fair process and an equitable result. The Open Internet Ombudsperson function is housed in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, with access to senior FCC officials, including in the Office of the Chairman and in the Office of the General Counsel. This arrangement ensures the independence of the ombudsperson's perspective within the FCC and allows the ombudsperson to act effectively as an agent for change. In the context of complaints, the Open Internet Ombudsperson can take steps to provide confidentiality. In cases of threats to public or personal safety, or as required by law, the ombudsperson may need to share certain information.

The Open Internet Ombudsperson draws on ethical principles and standards established by the Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen, the United States Ombudsman Association and the International Ombudsman Association.

 

FAQs

FAQ

Why is there an Open Internet Ombudsperson?

The FCC established the position of Open Internet Ombudsperson to provide an alternate, informal way to address issues and concerns related to the Open Internet. Many organizations, both government and private, have an ombudsperson. The FCC's ombudsperson was established in the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order.

When should I reach out to the Open Internet Ombudsperson?

You may contact the ombudsperson when you need assistance with accessing the FCC processes for handling Open Internet-related concerns, when the FCC's processes have not addressed your Open Internet-related concerns, or when you are having difficulty understanding the FCC's rules or processes related to the Open Internet. You may also contact the ombudsperson to seek assistance with your concerns before filing a complaint. Alternatively, you may contact the ombudsperson because you want to keep your concerns confidential.

Although individuals, businesses, and organizations can contact the ombudsperson at any time with Open Internet-related concerns or complaints, the FCC's primary method for accepting informal complaints and concerns is through the FCC's Consumer Complaint Center. We encourage utilization of the complaint center to allow providers to respond to concerns in writing.

To file an informal complaint, visit the Complaint Center, select the "Internet" button and enter "Open Internet" in the subject field of the resulting form. If you file an informal complaint, the Consumer Complaint Center can serve your informal complaint on your provider and your provider will be legally required to respond to you and the FCC in writing within 30 days. If you file an informal complaint and your provider's response does not adequately address your concerns, you are welcome to raise this issue with the ombudsperson.

What does the Open Internet Ombudsperson do?

The ombudsperson assists edge providers and the public with Open Internet-related concerns and complaints. The ombudsperson can investigate matters and bring concerns to the attention of appropriate FCC staff. The ombudsperson can also refer matters to the Enforcement Bureau for further investigation. When examining an issue, the ombudsperson analyzes and learns about all perspectives on an issue by:

  • Reviewing applicable Open Internet rules.
  • Consulting with individuals and/or stakeholders involved.
  • Reviewing FCC complaints and data.
  • Meeting with FCC officials.

Upon completion of that review and to assist with consideration of an issue, the ombudsperson may:

  • Facilitate discussions within the FCC and with stakeholders.
  • Share neutral analyses and an impartial perspective.
  • Take steps to provide confidentiality, subject to certain exceptions.
  • Engage in shuttle diplomacy.
  • Make recommendations on how an issue should be addressed.

What does the Open Internet Ombudsperson not do?

The Open Internet Ombudsperson does not:

  • Address internal FCC human resources matters.
  • Make policy decisions or legal determinations for the FCC.
  • Serve as a formal office of legal notice for the FCC.
  • Advocate on behalf of any particular party or result.
  • Affect any statutory, regulatory or other FCC deadlines.

How is the ombudsperson impartial?

For both individual matters and in analyzing trends and market conditions, the ombudsperson does not advocate for a particular entity or side. Rather, the ombudsperson examines all sides of an issue and works towards ensuring a fair process and an equitable resolution, which may include providing input on how an individual matter or broader issue should be addressed.

How does the ombudsperson share his or her independent perspective within the commission?

The ombudsperson works across the commission on Open Internet issues, policies, and complaints. Although the function is housed in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, the ombudsperson has access to senior FCC officials, including in the Office of the Chairman and the Office of the General Counsel, to serve as an early warning system, highlight trends and market conditions, and provide input on proposed initiatives.

How can the ombudsperson provide confidentiality?

Confidentiality allows consumers, businesses, and organizations to seek the ombudsperson's assistance without concern for retaliation or retribution. The ombudsperson can provide confidentiality in the context of a complaint and when doing so, the ombudsperson will not share any identifying information unless the party raising the issue agrees. The ombudsperson may share information if there is a threat of imminent risk of serious harm or an allegation of government fraud, waste or abuse, or if required by law.

Does it cost money to discuss an issue with the ombudsperson?

No. Consumers, businesses and organizations can voluntarily discuss matters with the ombudsperson and there is no charge for doing so.

 

Contact Us

Contact the Ombudsperson

How do I reach the Open Internet Ombudsperson?

Email: ombudsperson@fcc.gov

Phone: (202) 418-1155

How do I invite the ombudsperson to an event or conference?

If you would like to invite the ombudsperson to an event or conference to explain the role of the ombudsperson, send an email to ombudsperson@fcc.gov or call (202) 418-1155.

 

Updated: 
Friday, January 6, 2017