House Bill Expands Telehealth Access

…After Congress initially included audio-only appointments as an option under Medicare coverage, telehealth usage by elderly consumers and minorities increased. These marginalized communities were granted the opportunity to receive more care without any drop-off in quality. Failing to extend the audio-only alternative might mean patients, particularly those in marginalized communities, are denied the opportunity to benefit from remote healthcare. The overwhelming consumer support for telehealth emphasizes its continued post-pandemic importance to patients across the US. Telehealth has thus far succeeded in connecting medical professionals with those who need them, granting consumers flexibility with the time and place of their appointments. To take a major step toward America’s medical future and protect rural consumers, all lawmakers have to do is ensure that telehealth can continue to thrive without imposing stifling legislation that would hinder its continued integration into everyday healthcare. Jean-Luc Belloncle is a policy intern at the American Consumer Institute….

ACI’s Remarks to Department of Education on the Borrower Defense to Repayment Rule

Regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Docket ID ED-2021-OPE-0077: Student Assistance General Provisions, Federal Perkins Loan Program, Federal Family Education Loan Program, and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational and research institute with the mission to identify, analyze and project the interests of consumers in selected legislative and rulemaking proceedings in information technology, health care, insurance, energy, and other matters. ACI submits these comments to the Department of Education (Department) in response to the Public Notice released Student Assistance General Provisions, Federal Perkins Loan Program, Federal Family Education Loan Program, and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program in the above-referenced docket.[1] I write to express my concerns with proposed changes to the Borrower Defense to Repayment Rule. My concerns are as follows: I. Proposed Changes to “Substantial Misrepresentation” Could Facilitate Costly Loan Forgiveness on Almost…

ACI Files Comments with FCC Regarding Broadcast Merger

…Consumer Institute The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI) is a nonprofit (501c3) educational and research institute with the mission to identify, analyze and project the interests of consumers in selected legislative and rulemaking proceedings in information technology, health care, insurance, energy, and other matters. On July 7, 2022, ACI had an opinion piece published in Inside Sources.[1] The piece discusses the merits of the TEGNA Inc. and Standard General, L.P. deal to transfer licenses, and this filing is in response to the Media Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission in the above-referenced dockets. In general, we support the deal, because we believe it gives a boost to the struggling broadcast market, while adding to ownership diversity. We have attached our opinion piece for your consideration. Respectfully, Steve Pociask President / CEO ATTACHMENT [1] Steve Pociask, “Broadcast Merger Will Benefit Consumers, Add Diversity,” August 7, 2022, Inside Sources, https://insidesources.com/broadcast-merger-will-benefit-consumers-add-diversity/….

Inside Sources: Broadcast Merger Will Benefit Consumers, Add Diversity

The new Standard General-Tegna merger will increase diversity for the benefit of American consumers. The Federal Communications Commission has an opportunity to approve this transaction and advance one of its stated goals — to expand “minority and female ownership of broadcast media outlets.” This op-ed is available in the Inside Sources….

Lawmakers Fail to Understand the Benefits of Economies of Scale

…may argue that these loosened requirements allow agencies and state attorneys to go after mergers “before they ripened and caused harm,” this logic is based on the faulty assumption that large acquisitions do not provide profound, meaningful benefits to the consumer. The aviation industry proves how much consumers can gain from certain megamergers. Before the temporary shock to jet fuel reserves, which led to a considerable increase in plane ticket prices over the summer, average domestic airfares in 2021 were $222 cheaper in today’s money compared to the average ticket price in 1996. For American consumers, such a decline in airfares means more consumers can travel and reconnect with distant family members. Despite theories that larger companies will raise prices, the considerable decline in airfares has occurred alongside the greatest period of airline consolidation. Aviation, an industry with tremendous entry costs and regulation, benefits tremendously from economies of scale —…

The FAA Delays More Than Flights

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced last month that Verizon and AT&T have agreed to delay some C-Band 5G usage until July 2023, as air carriers work to ensure they will not face interference. Licensed spectrum forms the core of mobile networks, whose applications in fields like national security, education, health care and business offer technological advancements like the Internet of Things and greater and more efficient data use. Wireless networks need more capabilities and capacity at a time of ever-increasing consumer demand for mobile data. Unfortunately, although the newly auctioned 5G spectrum can meet some of this demand, consumers will have to wait even longer to access it, and carriers will likely have to wait to provide it. Despite this spectrum being auctioned off more than a year ago, the FAA raised needless concerns about the safety of 5G services, pressuring wireless providers to delay their rollout. This move will…

New ACI Report: Recent Causes of Inflation and Adverse Consequences for Consumers

Consumers agree that the biggest problem facing the United States is inflation, as record price increases have made it harder for families to make ends meet. This report outlines the factors that created an inflationary spiral and what can be done to help lower prices for consumers. The report’s highlights include: Increased government spending and stimulus checks have created more demand than supply, leading to demand-pull inflation; Energy prices surged as projects have been shelved, and the regulatory environment has become increasingly less conducive to domestic production, thereby leading to cost-push inflation; Low-income consumers are disproportionately hurt by higher prices, as the increase in energy and transportation prices alone will cost households earning less than $15,000 per year nearly $1,000 more in 2022; and Increases in various general regulations have increased operational costs for businesses, and the potential for increased taxes will increase consumer costs of food and other goods….

The Economic Standard: CFPB has Overstepped Its Authority

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has an important role of protecting consumers’ interests in the financial sector. As such, the Bureau is responsible for regulating in a manner that does not harm consumers or businesses.  This makes the Bureau a powerful institution with regulatory reach across a wide range of economic issues and, as a consequence, consumer lives. Unfortunately, the Bureau currently lacks accountability and has increasingly become the victim of mission creep, harming consumers and businesses in the process. In a digital ad campaign aimed at reining in the Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now echoes this alarm. The U.S. Chamber emphasized that, particularly under the leadership of Rohit Chopra, the CFPB has increasingly pushed the boundaries of its authority to enforce a narrow definition of how the financial market should operate. While making vague pronouncements about the importance of upholding fair and competitive markets, the Bureau has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to…

ACI Holds Capitol Hill Event, Sen. Rand Paul Keynotes on Antitrust Implications

consumers and innovation. Krisztina Pusok, director of policy and research at the American Consumer Institute, criticized the legislative proposals saying that the bills do not incorporate consumer welfare as a standard and they are not designed to protect consumers. Aurelien Portuese, director of the Schumpeter Project on Competition at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said these bills “completely ignore the welfare of consumers and are designed to protect less efficient competitors.” Americans are now concerned with inflation, the economy and jobs than supposed Big Tech dominance, said James Czerniawski, senior policy analyst in technology and innovation at Americans for Prosperity. It’s a “cookie cutter” approach to antitrust law that targets specific companies because of their size, while neglecting current antitrust enforcement principles, said Malena Dailey, technology policy analyst at the Progressive Policy Institute. Senator Rand Paul giving a keynote address at the American Consumer Institute Capitol Hill event 7/26/2022…

As Inflation Rages, Broadband Prices Fall

…broadband prices declined by 44.6%. while the price of BPI-Speed tier services dropped by 55%. Even more striking, since 2015 the real cost per megabit of broadband services has dropped by 75%. Considering the rapid pace of broadband innovation and improvement, it is truly extraordinary that the average price of high-speed internet service has continued to decline. Consumers now receive nearly “twice as much broadband speed” as in 2015 for roughly only half the cost. Other notable findings from the report include significant improvements in broadband services such as faster download and upload speeds. For example, download speeds for the most popular tier of service increased 127.7% and 84.6% for the fastest tiers. Changes in uploads speeds are even more impressive, offering 2 to 3 times what they were in 2015. Overall, the report offers consumers an important piece of good news during a difficult period of economic uncertainty. At…