FTC urges slow going on net neutrality


The Federal Trade Commission has recommended that Congress use a light touch when broaching the issue of internet access and network neutrality. It put a special FTC task force on the case, and the task force has put out a report called "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy."

FTC Chair Deborah Platt Majoras summarized its recommendations, saying, "This report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving, dynamic industry of broadband Internet access, which generally is moving toward more – not less – competition. In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area." The FTC notes that in its estimation, the jury is still out on significant issues, and that "…certain conduct and business arrangements that broadband providers may pursue, including data prioritization, exclusive deals, and vertical integration into online content and applications, can benefit consumers."

In a release, the FTC noted, "The primary reason for caution is simply that we do not know what the net effects of potential conduct by broadband providers will be on all consumers, including, among other things, the prices that consumers may pay for Internet access, the quality of Internet access and other services that will be offered, and the choices of content and applications that may be available to consumers in the marketplace."

SmartMedia observation: Supporters of network neutrality would argue that enforcing it is not adding new regulation, it is retaining the existing protocol, which holds that Internet providers are the same as a phone company which may not prioritize one phone call over another. In using the words vertical integration and prioritization, Platt Majoras is probably igniting the worst fears of net neutrality supporters. When the issue has come up in Congress, Democrats have tended to support the neutrality concept with some support from across the aisle, all of which would indicate that this battle is far from over.