House Democrats Attempt to Boost FTC Privacy Authority

The House Energy & Commerce Committee has defeated two Democratic amendments to a Federal Trade Commission reform bill that would have given the agency authority to regulate broadband ISP consumer privacy and more authority to regulate edge provider privacy.

That came in a full committee mark-up Thursday (July 14) on HR 5510, the FTC Process and Transparency Reform Act of 2016, which would clarify what conduct the FTC can cite for unfairness under its authority to go after unfair and deceptive practices and how it determines that to be the case. The House Judiciary Committee is also considering the FTC reform bill. 

One amendment would have given the FTC authority to create rules that protect consumer privacy on websites. The Democrats on the committee said that if the Republicans want a level playing field in broadband privacy, rather than preventing the FCC from adopting new rules on broadband privacy, a better answer would be to give the FTC more FCC-like rulemaking authority. Republicans countered that was a slippery slope and that the FTC was an enforcement agency, not a rulemaking agency.

That amendment was defeated by a vote of 27 to 17.

A second amendment would have eliminated the common-carrier exemption that required the FCC to take over broadband privacy oversight when it reclassified ISPs as common carriers. Democrats argued that would be an elegant solution to boosting the FTC's ability to regulate privacy. But Republicans said the FCC would not give up its abusive, mission-creep authority just because the FTC also got oversight.

That amendment was defeated by a voice vote.

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.