McSweeny to FCC: FTC's Consumer Protection Authority Insufficient to Discipline ISPs

Lone Democrat at FTC files comments favoring Title II rules

Democratic Federal Trade Commission member Terrell McSweeny has doubts that the agency's consumer protection authority is sufficient to discipline the actions of ISPs if Title II is rolled back and the FTC regains ISP oversight.

In comments to the FCC, she said reversing Title II would harm consumers, and that the push to have the FTC regulate both edge providers (as it does now) and ISPs (as it once did) "mistakenly establishes a false equivalence between the static [and largely noncompetitive, she argues] broadband service provider marketplace on the one hand and the dynamic competition offered on the 'edge.'

"The FTC is a highly expert consumer protection and competition enforcement agency, but there are limits to the effectiveness of our tools in policing nondiscrimination on networks and protecting competition in markets that are already highly concentrated," McSweeny added.

FTC chair Maureen Ohlhausen, in her comments to the FCC, said she thought the FTC's expertise in privacy and data security were sufficient, in combination with market forces, to discipline the marketplace via an enforcement approach.

McSweeny noted that ISPs could change their terms of service at will, and so long as they were not deceptive, the FTC could do nothing about them beyond requiring ISPs to adhere to them, whatever they were.

McSweeny also said antitrust laws may not cover the public-interest issues associated with consumers' abliilty to access content or express themselves online.