FCC, FTC 'Net Neutrality MOU Gets Panned, Praised

There were mixed reactions in Washington to the announced internet openness enforcement memorandum of understanding between the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, depending on which side of the aisle it was coming from.

“This Memorandum of Understanding is cold comfort to consumers if the FCC moves forward with its scheduled net neutrality vote," said Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who will be voting against the Dec. 14 ISP reclassification and rule rollback that prompted the MOU. "The FTC’s authority in this matter is in question and an MOU does nothing to answer those concerns. Moreover, the MOU is no substitute for the FCC’s rules when it comes to preventing blocking, throttling, and discrimination online. Plus, FTC enforcement would happen long after the fact—many months, if not years, after consumers and businesses have been harmed. This is why the FCC must not relinquish its authority and, more importantly, its responsibility, to the public interest.”

“The agreement announced today between the FCC and FTC is a confusing, lackluster, reactionary afterthought: an attempt to paper over weaknesses in the Chairman’s draft proposal repealing the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules," said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

Ditto Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). “Today’s agreement between the FCC and FTC underscores the absurdity of Chairman Pai’s proposal to eliminate net neutrality and his plan to abandon the FCC’s statutory responsibilities as the expert agency overseeing our communications networks," said the congressman. "Chairman Pai’s plan not only leaves consumers fending for themselves, it is now creating a bureaucratic nightmare with no one left in charge when things inevitably go wrong. And by acting before the Ninth Circuit decides whether the FTC has any authority over broadband providers, this MOU is effectively worthless.”

Related: FCC, FTC Will Collaborate Monitoring Open Internet

The Ninth Circuit is considering a lower court decision that an edge provider owned by a common carrier--say Yahoo! and Verizon--means the FTC is prevented from enforcing privacy protections over that edge provider because it is prevented from regulating common carriers.

On the other side of that aisle, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), joined by Communications Subcommittee chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee chairman Bob Latta (R-Ohio) signaled they were comforted that the two agencies were on the job.

“As the FCC prepares to rightfully restore internet freedom with Title I internet rules, it’s good to know that these powerful commissions are working together to protect consumers from any unfair or anticompetitive practices," they said. "The FTC has successfully provided those essential protections for decades, and we are confident they will continue to do so. Today’s announcement from the FTC and FCC is a positive move for consumers and the internet ecosystem,” said Walden, Blackburn, and Latta."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.