FTC Enters Net Neutrality Debate

by on August 25, 2006 · 6 comments

The Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission made a significant contribution to understanding the proper role of government in ensuring net neutrality. Speaking at the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit this week, Deborah Platt Majoras cited the principle that, absent clear and specific evidence of market failure or consumer harm, policymakers should not enact blanket prohibitions of particular business models or conduct.

Second, she reminds us that broadband Internet access services are within the FTC’s jurisdiction and that the agency’s powers are proven. The FTC has successfully targeted Internet service providers who have allegedly enganged in deceptive practices and it has also required a cable system to provide open access to Internet service providers. This track record makes it pretty clear the FTC not only has the power but it also has the inclination to preserve openness and other values associated with the Internet. The allegation is that the D-word (deregulation) is coming to broadband services. Aside from the FTC, the FCC and the Antitrust Division also have jurisdiction over broadband services. Contrary to what one might think from listening to the appeals of net neutrality advocates, there are three levels of government oversight of broadband services.

Third, Majoras acknowledged that important questions have been raised and more information is needed. She announced the formation of an Internet Access Task Force to examine issues related to net neutrality and other matters. Net neutrality has been a debate about hypotheticals, which is part of the reason it has seemed so unproductive. This task force will be made up of economists and attorneys from throughout the FTC who are competition and consumer protection experts. Unlike the FCC, which only does communications, the FTC has wide-ranging experience and expertise arising from their involvement in every sector of the economy. This makes the FTC, perhaps, less beholden to some of the passions and prejudices which animate the special interests that have a dog in this fight. The FTC’s involvement will probably contribute greatly to the debate. With this kind of comprehensive look at all the facts underway, I’ll bet many-to-most in Congress will prefer to review the findings before they cast a vote.
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See:The Federal Trade Commission in the Online World: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers,” Remarks by Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission, Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit, August 21, 2006

See:PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION before the COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY UNITED STATES SENATE on FTC JURISDICTION OVER BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS SERVICES,” by William E. Kovacic, Commissioner, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006

  • http://www.voluntarytrade.org/newsite Skip Oliva

    Wow. This is an unbelievably stupid post. Anyone who thinks the FTC “are competition and consumer protection experts” who actually believe in free markets is ignoring the FTC’s actual behavior over the past decade. I can refute everything argued in this post, but clearly the poster is more interested in publishing pro-FTC propaganda than promoting an honest discussion. I won’t be wasting my time reading this website anymore.

  • http://www.voluntarytrade.org/newsite Skip Oliva

    Wow. This is an unbelievably stupid post. Anyone who thinks the FTC “are competition and consumer protection experts” who actually believe in free markets is ignoring the FTC’s actual behavior over the past decade. I can refute everything argued in this post, but clearly the poster is more interested in publishing pro-FTC propaganda than promoting an honest discussion. I won’t be wasting my time reading this website anymore.

  • http://www.sabreean.com Constance Reader

    “Deborah Platt Majoras cited the principle that, absent clear and specific evidence of market failure or consumer harm, policymakers should not enact blanket prohibitions of particular business models or conduct.”

    The Supreme Court cited the principle that, absent clear and specific evidence of law enforcement failure or citizen harm, lawmakers should not enact blanket prohibitions of particular crime models or conduct. The time to criminalize murder, rape, burglary and fraud is after there is clear evidence that it is both occurring in significant amounts and that it is doing actual harm.

    Doesn’t wash, does it? And no, it is not different. Criminalizing/regulating harmful activity after is has already been committed and done harm is too little, too late. You can not turn back time erase the harm done.

  • http://www.sabreean.com Constance Reader

    “Deborah Platt Majoras cited the principle that, absent clear and specific evidence of market failure or consumer harm, policymakers should not enact blanket prohibitions of particular business models or conduct.”

    The Supreme Court cited the principle that, absent clear and specific evidence of law enforcement failure or citizen harm, lawmakers should not enact blanket prohibitions of particular crime models or conduct. The time to criminalize murder, rape, burglary and fraud is after there is clear evidence that it is both occurring in significant amounts and that it is doing actual harm.

    Doesn’t wash, does it? And no, it is not different. Criminalizing/regulating harmful activity after is has already been committed and done harm is too little, too late. You can not turn back time erase the harm done.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Speaking at the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit this week, Deborah Platt Majoras cited the principle that, absent clear and specific evidence of market failure or consumer harm, policymakers should not enact blanket prohibitions of particular business models or conduct.

    As far as I am concerned we’ve already crossed the point of ‘clear and specific evidence’ to wit:

    - In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.

    - In 2005, Canada’s telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a labor dispute. (Welcome to the world of CORPORATE FASCISM),

    - Shaw, a big Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to subscribers in order to “enhance” competing Internet telephone services.

    - In April, Time Warner’s AOL blocked all emails that mentioned http://www.dearaol.com – an advocacy campaign opposing the company’s pay-to-send e-mail scheme.

    This type of censorship and repression of individual liberties by large corporations will become the norm unless we act now. Given the chance, these gatekeepers will consistently put their own interests before the public good.

    I have repeatedly asked Tim Lee to respond to the question: Given the above facts, how would you present these kinds of abuses, without regulation?

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Speaking at the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit this week, Deborah Platt Majoras cited the principle that, absent clear and specific evidence of market failure or consumer harm, policymakers should not enact blanket prohibitions of particular business models or conduct.

    As far as I am concerned we’ve already crossed the point of ‘clear and specific evidence’ to wit:

    - In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.

    - In 2005, Canada’s telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a labor dispute. (Welcome to the world of CORPORATE FASCISM),

    - Shaw, a big Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to subscribers in order to “enhance” competing Internet telephone services.

    - In April, Time Warner’s AOL blocked all emails that mentioned http://www.dearaol.com – an advocacy campaign opposing the company’s pay-to-send e-mail scheme.

    This type of censorship and repression of individual liberties by large corporations will become the norm unless we act now. Given the chance, these gatekeepers will consistently put their own interests before the public good.

    I have repeatedly asked Tim Lee to respond to the question: Given the above facts, how would you present these kinds of abuses, without regulation?

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