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 FTC 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. The proposal to expand the FTC's authority has sparked a flurry of lobbying by advertisers, industry groups and the US Chamber of Commerce, who are seeking to block it citing concerns about possible overreach by the agency. "The bottom line is that these powerful special business interests want to keep the Internet as their private financial playground — where they get to reap the big bucks without any regulatory oversight," says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy."