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FTC Could Gain Enforcement Power Over Internet 134

Posted by timothy
from the who-above-all-else-desire-power dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that under a little-known provision in financial overhaul legislation before Congress the Federal Trade Commission could become a more powerful watchdog for Internet users with the power to to issue rules on a fast track and impose civil penalties on companies that hurt consumers. 'If we had a deterrent, a bigger stick to fine malefactors, that would be helpful,' says FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who has argued in favor of bolstering his agency's enforcement ability. This power would stand in stark contrast to a besieged FCC, whose ability to oversee broadband providers has been cast into doubt after a federal court ruled last month that the agency lacked the ability to punish Comcast for violating open-Internet guidelines. The provision to strengthen the FTC is in the regulatory overhaul legislation passed by the House, and although it is absent from the legislation before the Senate, some observers expect the measure to be included when the House and Senate versions are combined."
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FTC Could Gain Enforcement Power Over Internet

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  • Re:Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T Murphy (1054674) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:19PM (#32020814) Journal
    I'm no scholar on what agency does what, but the article mentions privacy issues, which sounds more like FTC than FCC. I can understand the FCC being concerned about how ISPs handle traffic, but not what the actual content is. It makes perfect sense for the FTC to be concerned about exactly what information is being collected and how it is used. Of course, traffic shaping and net neutrality can be seen as affecting trade and consumers, so that may fall under FTC jurisdiction too. Although I would think it best for the FTC and FCC to collaborate where their interests overlap, overall I think FTC is more relevant with most internet-related issues that get brought up on slashdot.

    That said, someone better informed could probably be much more insightful and probably poke a few holes in what I'm saying.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:20PM (#32020842) Homepage Journal

    You guys are all gonna be crying a river when the FCC mandates all packets get cryptographically labelled with an asserted certificate before transit is allowed.

    Most all of the real problems with Internet companies that can hurt users are already covered under fraud laws - no new powers are required. So, ask yourself why it is they want these new powers.

  • by voss (52565) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:21PM (#32020856)

    The FTC doesnt give a crap about censoring content only regulating anti-fraud and commercial transactions. The FTC could go after internet companies
    under anti-trust and anti-competitive practices laws.

  • Bad Idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:21PM (#32020868)
    While this might stop Comcast, regulation is -never- the answer when it comes to the economy. If you can mandate net neutrality over all the net* who is to say that the government can't force ISPs to block certain sites? Track 'piracy', etc.

    *I believe that the way to regulate ISPs is that if the ISP has lines running through public property, the public has a say on their policies. If they don't use public land, they are free to do whatever.

    Regulation usually cuts off one head of the hydra only to replace it with 2, 3 or 4 more problems. Mix this with the fact you can't vote these people out of office and they are accountable to essentially no one and you have a system ripe for abuse.

    Let the citizens choose what their public land is used for. If an ISP wants to use that land to lay cable, they should be accountable to the citizens because their land is being used.
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:22PM (#32020876)

    The FCC has the jurisdiction, they should be enforcing the rules. But since they don't have the teeth, let the FTC do it, those guys are sharks.

    A court has recently rule that the FCC does not have the jurisdiction. I have two problems with theway this is being done. First, this expansion of the power of the FTC over the Internet is being stuck into an omnibus bill that I have heard is yet another 1,000+ page monstrosity. If this is a good idea, this should be a stand alone bill. Second, this does seem more like the sort of thing that belongs in the FCC. A court has ruled that the FCC has, at most, limited authority to regulate the Internet, if Congress believes that they should regulate the Internet more strongly, they should pass a bill for that purpose, not stick a provision in some mega-bill to expand government regulation of the Internet.

  • Re:Bad Idea... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:33PM (#32021090)

    I'm going to go ahead and point out the flaw here. In most conversations, net neutrality specifically means blocking certain sites is bad. So your slippery slope is pretty poor, imo.

    Your argument boils down to "if we let the government do 1 specific thing X, then they'll be able to do anyyything, oh noez, it's terriblez".

    It's a pretty weak argument, really. History has shown that regulation can help and that without that regulation things can go poorly - I point to current recession and repeal of glass steagal.

  • Re:Uh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:33PM (#32021092) Journal

    And what of those ISPs that operate wholly-and-completely within a state (like Mom&Pop Internet of Fargo)? The U.S. government's power does not extend to them. I guess that job will be left to the state.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:41PM (#32021232)

    I'm glad someone pointed this out. The FTC is also tied closely to ACTA, is it not? I think actually that this is the worst possible thing that could happen for consumers. Watch them try to implement the internet death penalty on Google for stealing Rupert Murdoch's precious news.

  • Re:Uh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:44PM (#32021288)

    And what of those ISPs that operate wholly-and-completely within a state (like Mom&Pop Internet of Fargo)? The U.S. government's power does not extend to them. I guess that job will be left to the state.

    Their bits compete with the bits of carriers who go out of state. They also have the ability to travel out of state. Therefore it will be deemed within the scope of the Commerce Clause.

    Haven't you learned by now that the Federal Government has the authority to regulate anything by virtue of the fact that it chooses to regulate it? Hell, they recently decided that even though they BANNED interstate commerce of an item (Cannabis), if you even look at it funny that somehow manipulates the interstate trade of the item and thus falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.

    In essence what that means: If the Federal government decides to regulate something at ALL, it has the authority to regulate it anywhere.

    An abomination of a Supreme Court decision.

  • by NevarMore (248971) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:45PM (#32021294) Homepage Journal

    Most all of the real problems with Internet companies that can hurt users are already covered under fraud laws - no new powers are required. So, ask yourself why it is they want these new powers.

    Because when the only tool you have is more regulation every problem appears to be solvable by more regulation.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:55PM (#32021516) Homepage Journal

    Any new regulations, be it financial, health insurance, fcc, cdc, whatever, has to be paid for somehow, doesn't it?

    In the past 10 years the Federal budget in US has grown by a factor of 2, that probably means that the Government is twice as big now as it was then.

    Show of hands who here makes 2 times the money now as they made 10 years ago? I know I don't.

    What about the Economy, is it twice as big, twice as strong, produced twice as many goods, created twice as many jobs, anything at all that doubled beside unemployment?

    Didn't think so.

    The US Government at this point is living on borrowed time, so does the US Dollar and the entire country. Question is, what is going to happen when the time runs out? I dread to think of the possibilities, wars, dictatorships, hunger, sickness, mass exodus.

    Bright side? It also could be fun shooting.

  • OH NO REGULATIONS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:21PM (#32021944)
    Show me a single instance of government regulation of the internet -ever- increasing freedom and having a truly positive end.

    Since the government sort of took the initiative in creating the thing in the first place, I'm not sure how to comment to that. I can tell you an example where deregulation had the opposite effect, where telling carriers that they didn't have to lease their lines to competing companies set up local monopolies and discouraged further development beyond high-rent urban areas. It's also sort of funny that we're discussing giving the FTC power to restrict throttling on certain content, and you're trying to tell us that this is what leads to... the FTC censoring certain content. That's a bit like telling me I need to go South to get to Canada from Houston, because eventually I'll swing all the way around the globe.

    Regulation breeds monopolies and big businesses that are 'too big to fail'.

    It's just the opposite, unless you don't consider antitrust laws to be regulation. We have large investment banks in control of much of our trading sector because we stopped deciding at some point that too-big-to-fail entities were in violation of monopoly laws. You should see how we used to break up large companies, even if they didn't control 100% of the market. It's sort of amazing that after a heavy downturn in the market that came about largely because of commodities being traded unregulated in a sort of a shadow market that people somehow believe that government regulation NEVER improves the market.

    Daniel Gross does a decent job of highlighting the Chicken Little effect of regulation on Wall Street here. [slate.com] But of course, this was a discussion about the internet, not Wall Street. In order to believe that further regulation will hurt the development of the internet, you sort of have to believe that there's already healthy competition in the American broadband market, that local monopolies don't exist, that customer service isn't getting worse as the ISPs get lazy on lack of competition, and that the rest of the world isn't slowly smoking us on improving network speeds. But obviously if we'd just get out of Comcast's way, then the internet will be just fine, right?
  • Re:Uh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:35PM (#32022202)

    As much as I disagree with ICC being used as it is, this is one of those cases that clearly leaves the state, as it is simply impossible to claim that an ISP operates only within a state, as it is a communications system explicitly with the world.

    What leaves the state though? If Bob and I are in Kansas and Steve is in Pennsylvania are all within a single state, and I hand a package to Bob, at what point did I leave the state?

    It's an interesting concept, one in which I think the eventual result will be:

    Federal Government to interstate network: You must only deal with businesses that follow these practices.
    Interstate ISP to local state ISPs: Hey, if you want your data to get out of Kansas, you must follow these rules.

    Either that, or the rules will be enacted in a manner similar to how the 21 yr old drinking age got passed even though it would be unconstitutional to implement one directly.

  • Re:Bad Idea... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aonic (878715) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:14PM (#32024402) Homepage

    Let the citizens choose what their public land is used for. If an ISP wants to use that land to lay cable, they should be accountable to the citizens because their land is being used.

    People tend to forget that the citizens are the government. It's not "you vs. them." If you don't like something "the government" (aka "the people we elected") is doing, get involved and fix it. Whining about "tyrrany" and mailing teabags doesn't count.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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