Google Joins the FTC Bandwagon on Neutrality Regulation

by on February 28, 2007 · 10 comments

Should the FCC enforce net neutrality rules? No, says Google’s top policy executive. According to Andrew McLaughlin, the firm’s global public policy head: “Cutting the FCC out of the picture would be a smart move.”

The comments were made yesterday at the Tech Policy Summit in San Jose. As reported in Tech Daily and Communications Daily, McLaughlin argued that neutrality should be thought of as “an attorney general or FTC problem.”

This is a surprising statement from Google, which has lead the fight for neutrality regulation for over a year. Most proposals for neutrality regulation have put the FCC in charge–including the S. 215, by Sen. Olympia Snowe and Byron Dorgan.

Its also a sensible idea–one that many of us have long advocated. (See, for instance, this statement by the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s DACA working group.) At its heart, the net neutrality debate is over competition: how much is there, is it enough, and what to do if it is not. Such issues are the bread and butter of the FTC–which has close to a hundred years experience dealing with them.

In recent weeks, the FTC has been actively staking its claim on network neutrality issue–highlighted by a two-day long workshop earlier this month. Google’s seeming endorsement is a major step forward to the idea.

Anyone worried about this outbreak of harmony, should however be reassured that there is still plenty of points of conflict left out there. Critically, McLaughlin argued that new–industry-specific–rules are still needed for neutrality, whoever enforces them, intead of applying the same antitrust rules that apply to everyone else.

But now’s not the time to quibble, these things have to be taken one step at a time. For now, the message is: “Welcome aboard, Andrew. Glad to have you on the FTC bandwagon”.

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