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FTC: Congress Should Be Hesitant To Mandate Net Neutrality

The Federal Trade Commission Wednesday released a report Wednesday cautioning Congress to tread lightly in the area of network neutrality.

"In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm," said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area.”

The area is how broadband networks are allowed to conduct their Internet business.

Majoras said that "data prioritization, exclusive deals, and vertical integration into online content and applications," can be beneficial to consumers and that there is too little evidence of what the possible effect on consumers would be of conduct by broadband providers.

That echoes the FCC's reasoning in not mandating network neutrality provisions when it ruled that cable, then telco, then powerline and wireless broadband providers were not subject to mandatory Internet access requirements. The FCC established open Internet guidelines and assured Congress it had the muscle to crack down on abuses once they were demonstrated.

In response to criticism that the open Internet is threatened by companies looking to create fast and slow Internet lanes depending on ability to pay, the FCC has asked for examples of cases in which providers are unfairly limiting access to the 'net in violation of its open access principles.

Network Neutrality backers were not pleased with the FTC's hands-off message.  "On fourth down with the future of the Internet on the line, the Federal Trade Commission decided to punt," said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press, on behalf of, which has been pushing for network neutrality legislation.

But the FCC provided some fodder for the pro-open access crowd, "The Open Internet Coalition applauds the staff finding that online consumers have 'revealed a strong preference for the current open access to Internet content and applications,' embracing the open Internet," said the group..