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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC Staff Supports FCC’s Proposal to Reverse Broadband Enforcement Authority

Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security FTC FCC Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Enforcement

Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

On July 17, FTC staff submitted its comments to the FCC in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Restoring Internet Freedom (NPRM), in favor of returning broadband enforcement authority to FTC. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The NPRM would reverse a 2015 FCC decision, which changed the classification of broadband internet access service from an “information service to a common carrier service,” and resulted in a loss to the FTC’s authority. Currently, the FTC cannot regulate common carrier activities. FTC staff argued that with the exception of broadband providers, FTC jurisdiction covers virtually all other internet entities. Having one agency with enforcement authority over all internet entities would allow for “consistent standards and consistent application of those standards.” The result, the staff encouraged, would be the creation of a “level playing field for all companies operating in the Internet ecosystem.”

Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen endorsed the staff comments and offered support for the NPRM to reverse the 2015 Title II classification of broadband internet access service as a way to “restore the FTC’s ability to protect broadband consumers under its general consumer protection and competition authority.” However, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny dissented, stating that “[u]nless Congress repeals the common carrier exemption in the FTC Act, the FTC could continue to face challenges to its authority over common carriers.” Consequently, “[r]epealing these rules would be harmful for consumers and the marketplace . . . . Rather than roll[ing] back protections, we should augment them with renewed FCC vigor and a change to anachronistic barriers to FTC enforcement.”

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