A goal realized: Network lobbyists’ sweeping capture of their regulator

By Tom Wheeler – “Here’s how the telecom industry plans to defang their regulators,” a September 12, 2013 Washington Post headline announced. “[T]elecom giants including Verizon, AT&T and Comcast have launched multiple efforts to shift regulation of their broadband business to other agencies that don’t have nearly as much power as the FCC,” the article explained.

The companies’ goal: to move regulatory jurisdiction from the Federal Communications Commission to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Strategically, it is a brilliant sleight of hand since the FTC has no rulemaking authority and no telecommunications expertise, yet the companies and the policymakers who support them can trot out the line that the FTC will protect consumers.

With this vote, the FCC walked away from over a decade of bipartisan efforts to oversee the fairness and openness of companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Charter, and Verizon. These four companies control over 75 percent of the residential internet access in America, usually through a local monopoly. Henceforth, they will be able to make their own rules, subject only to very limited after-the-fact review.

The assertion that the FTC will be able to provide that protection adequately is an empty promise. The people at the FTC are good people, but they have neither network expertise, nor the authority to make rules. more>

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