Goodlatte: Tweaking Antitrust Beats Title II

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) took aim at the FCC in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series, offering up various legislative options for blocking the FCC's reclassification of broadband under Title II, including adjusting antitrust laws.

"You can protect the openness of the Internet a better way by having competition protected by antitrust laws," he said.

Goodlatte was not definitive about any of those legislative options, saying "there could very well be."

But in addition to pointing to bills already introduced under the Congressional Review Act—in both the House and Senate—to invalidate the FCC's Feb. 26 rulemaking, he talked about "limiting the agency through the power of the purse" by defunding implementation of the rules, and even added a new antitrust wrinkle. "I believe that our antitrust laws are good, but if they need to be tweaked, so that a small business, for example, can feel the [protection] of our antitrust laws, we should look at that." He did not even mention a fourth approach, the bill already proposed that would legislate no blocking, throttling and no paid prioritization rules, while precluding the use of Title II and limiting the use of Sec. 706 as broad authority to regulate broadband.

Goodlatte, who was interviewed during a tech fair on Capitol Hill, had just been talking with Google. When asked about its troubles in Europe—the European Commission claims Google favors its own search—Goodlatte suggested that might have been a case of protectionist policy rather than any Google wrongdoing.

Goodlatte signaled his committee had contacted some "key people" in Europe and pushed back. He said the committee had told them that "in the United States, our antitrust laws are focused on protecting the consumer, not on protecting other businesses. We're very fearful that the Europeans may be envious of the environment we have in the United States for the creation of new businesses like Facebook and Google [and are] trying to use their antitrust laws to disadvantage these companies." Goodlatte says that favoring domestic companies is something "we have to combat."

As an example, he used Spain's proposed tax last fall on Internet news aggregators, which prompted Google to shut down Google News there. "Google, told that they couldn't do certain things with their search said, 'OK, we won't offer it in Spain. So, for about two weeks you couldn't use it in Spain and then after the Spanish officials heard from the people in Spain that they wanted it, they backed away from it."

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.