Witnesses testified at a hearing on the plausibility of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) antitrust laws versus Federal Communications Commission (FCC) section 706 regulations to ensure Net Neutrality. Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell and FTC member Joshua Wright said that antitrust laws and a congressional consumer protection mandate were better equipped to ensure an open Internet. Columbia Law Professor Wu disagreed, telling the committee that the Internet had existed for 20 years and that to switch to antitrust law would be a mistake because the laws are market focused and do not take into account non-economic Public Interest values such as freedom of speech.
- The FCC is overseen by congress with legal mandates and frameworks for regulating broadband, competition, spectrum, media, public safety and homeland security.
- The FTC is overseen by the President with its mission being the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anti-competitive business practices.
Technology and change are the primary growth catalyst for many business today. Is either agency equipped to act in the common interest of the public, free from the influence of partisan politics and lobbyist? Will we simply continue to hold hearing after hearing, file brief after brief while responding to more lawsuits followed by more court rulings?
Many have argued that we need a major rewrite of the telecommunications act. I would idealistically counter that our government and courts simply need to speed up democratic decisions or oversight policies to keep pace with technology regardless of the agency. Years of indecision and posturing introduce risk and uncertainty that is constraining investment, innovation and GDP growth.