FTC Issues Net Neutrality Report

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday released several guiding principles for policy makers to follow when considering whether to institute net neutrality regulations.

The usual suspects issued statements praising the Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy study, which recommended a hands-off approach to governing the Internet.

The FTCs Internet Access Task Force said some broadband providers business arrangements including data prioritization and exclusive deals can benefit consumers. The unknowns, said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, are the prices consumers might pay for Internet access and the quality of that access. Net neutrality proponents have framed this as tiered service depending on what users are willing to pay.

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

Regardless, the FTC report noted the agency will advocate for competition and consumer protection in the broadband industry.

The findings were sure to rub net neutrality supporters the wrong way but no opposing statements had been issued by press time.

Members of the Hands Off the Internet coalition, which include Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T Inc. and 3M, said the report strengthens their position.

With consumer protection laws already in place, this is no time for government to raise prices with heavy net neutrality regulation, said co-chairs Mike McCurry and Christopher Wolf in a news release.

Wireless and Bell companies, as well as free-market think tanks, took the same stance.

“The Internet regulation scheme has forever been built on a hypothetical, what-if scenario and today this flimsy theory has met yet another round of cold, hard, real-world facts that render it unworthy of our nation’s attention and resources, said Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA The Wireless Association.

The Federal Trade Commission report confirms that there is no problem to fix, added Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president for public affairs, policy and communications.

Finally, the Heartland Institute said the FTC mostly was right on in its analysis of net neutrality.

“The FTC staff acknowledged the high level of competition among broadband providers and correctly urged policy makers to go slow on regulating broadband business models, particularly recommending caution on network neutrality, which would prevent service providers from prioritizing Internet traffic or favoring some Web content and applications over others, said Steven Titch, senior fellow for information technology and telecom policy.

The FTCs Internet Task Force spent nearly a year compiling the report.

Hands Off the Internet
Heartland Institute
Verizon Communications Inc.

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