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Wheeler Glad Senate Eyeing MVPD Customer Service

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler signaled Monday he was glad that the Senate appeared to be about to put MVPDs' feet to the fire on customer service but suggested the FCC was limited in its ability to add any fuel to that fire.

A hearing is scheduled for this week in the ominous sounding Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and Wheeler was asked about it after a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The question, submitted on a card from the audience, was clearly from no MVPD fan. "PTV providers are famous for their poor customer service," the question read. "It's so poor that the Senate will investigate it at a hearing this week. Is there anything the FCC and Congress can do to force companies, like Comcast, to respond to complaints faster?"

Wheeler, who formerly headed up the cable industry's largest trade group, said he thought it was "great" that the Senate was having a hearing on the issue. "The complaints that we hear from consumers on this topic are legion," he said, but added: "As we look at the scope of the authority Congress has given us, it is rather limited."

Wheeler did not offer up any personal examples of "nightmare" encounters with any telecom firms when asked to do so by a questioner who suggested regulators were supposed to feel the public's pain. He signaled that public officials generally also have issues with customer service regs but pointed instead to his wife being spoofed by someone offshore using the internet to call random numbers claiming to be from the IRS and seeking payments.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.