The staff of the Federal Trade Commission has submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supporting that agency’s proposal to restore FTC jurisdiction related to broadband Internet access services.
The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Competition, and Bureau of Economics submitted joint comments on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Restoring Internet Freedom. That Notice proposes reversing the FCC’s 2015 decision to change the classification of broadband Internet access service from an information service to a common carrier service. The FCC’s 2015 decision effectively stripped the FTC of its authority over broadband Internet access services. Under current law, the FTC is prohibited from regulating common carrier activities.
In its comments, FTC staff emphasized the agency’s strong track record of protecting consumer privacy and data security in various sectors. To date, the FTC has brought more than 500 privacy and security-related cases involving a wide range of sectors including social media, ad-tech, search, mobile, and Internet of Things applications and devices. The staff comment also described the FTC’s expertise in protecting consumers from other kinds of harm, such as fraudulent business practices, deceptive advertising claims, and other types of deceptive or unfair practices.
In its comments, staff noted that the FTC uses its enforcement authority under the FTC Act, policy initiatives, and consumer and business education to protect consumers, including their privacy and security. Having one agency with jurisdiction over the entire Internet ecosystem will help ensure consistent standards and consistent application of those standards. The staff added that the current gap in online consumer protection makes little sense given that FTC jurisdiction currently covers virtually all other entities in the Internet space except broadband providers.
The staff comment noted that the FCC’s proceeding also would restore the FTC’s antitrust enforcement authority related to broadband providers. The FTC has worked to prevent unfair methods of competition since its inception more than a century ago, and the agency’s activities in Internet-related markets demonstrate its ability to preserve competition and promote innovation for the benefit of consumers.
Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen filed a separate comment with the FCC, endorsing the staff comment and describing the FTC’s past work on the network neutrality issue, including staff’s 2007 Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy report. Commissioner Terrell McSweeny also filed a separate comment with the FCC opposing the staff comment.
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