×

In Latest Twist in Net Neutrality Battle, Court Rules FTC Can Regulate Internet Providers

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Trade Commission has jurisdiction over internet providers, a decision that has ramifications for the future of net neutrality.

When the FCC repealed most of its existing net neutrality rules in December, it left it to the FTC to take up oversight of consumer complaints over internet service as well as the privacy practices of broadband providers.

But the plan had a potential hitch: A lawsuit playing out in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals raised doubts about the future of the FTC’s authority to bring a lawsuit against certain broadband providers over their traffic management practices. After the FTC brought suit against AT&T Mobility over its data throttling practices, calling it “unfair and deceptive,” AT&T claimed that it was exempt from oversight.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the Ninth Circuit decision was “a significant win for American consumers.”

“Among other things, it reaffirms that the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police internet service providers” after the FCC’s latest action on net neutrality, Pai said. “In the months and years ahead, we look forward to working closely with the FTC to ensure the protection of a free and open internet.”

In the ruling, written by Judge Margaret McKeown on behalf of an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, the judges wrote that “permitting the FTC to oversee unfair and deceptive non-common-carriage practices of telecommunications companies has practical ramifications.”

“New technologies have spawned new regulatory challenges,” the judges wrote. “A phone company is no longer just a phone company. The transformation of information services and the ubiquity of digital technology mean that telecommunications operators have expanded into website operation, video distribution, news and entertainment production, interactive entertainment services and devices, home security, and more. Reaffirming FTC jurisdiction over activities that fall outside of common-carrier services avoids regulatory gaps and provides consistency and predictability in regulatory enforcement.”

An AT&T spokesperson said, “Today’s decision on jurisdiction does not address the merits of the case. We are reviewing the opinion and continue to believe we ultimately will prevail.”

Consumer advocates praised the decision, but they still oppose the FCC’s move to repeal many of its net neutrality rules. They doubt that the FTC will be able to police the internet because its authority, while affirmed by the court, will still be much more limited than the FCC’s oversight.

“This is the right result for the FTC and consumers, allowing the FTC to continue to protect consumers in what would otherwise be a vast regulatory gap,” said Jessica Rich, vice president of advocacy for Consumer Reports and former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“However, this decision only restores the limited jurisdiction the FTC previously had over internet service providers,” Rich added. “Despite what the telecom industry says, this ruling is no substitute for the critical net neutrality protections that the FCC has rolled back under Chairman Pai, which is why we’re urging Congress to restore the rules to protect the open internet.”

The lawsuit was brought long before this latest battle over the net neutrality issue.

Net neutrality activists are planning a “day of action” on Tuesday in an effort to secure one more Senate vote to restore the FCC’s rules.

More Politics

  • Kamala Harris

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Face Rematch in Next Democratic Debate

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris will have the opportunity to square off again in the second debate among Democratic hopefuls vying for their party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential election CNN, which will broadcast the next round of debates on July 30 and 31, televised a draw Thursday night that decided [...]

  • Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro Donate

    Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro Join Hollywood's Buttigieg Bandwagon

    Pete Buttigieg has built a devoted following in Hollywood over the last few months, helping him lead the Democratic field in fundraising for the second quarter. In a filing released Monday night, Buttigieg disclosed contributions from a bunch of bold-faced names, including Jennifer Aniston, Tig Notaro and Larry David. Buttigieg held numerous fundraisers in the [...]

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk — and success — hanging [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    Jeffrey Epstein Bail Decision Delayed, More Accusers Coming Forward

    Jeffrey Epstein won’t find out if he’s going to be released on bail until July 18, even as prosecutors argued that the multimillionaire businessman presents a flight risk and could endanger his accusers unless he remains in jail. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Monday, Epstein’s legal team said their client is willing [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    FTC Approves $5 Billion Fine Against Facebook for Privacy Violations

    The Federal Trade Commission voted to fine Facebook around $5 billion for violations of the FTC’s consumer-privacy rules, according to multiple media reports — the biggest privacy-related fine in the commission’s history. The $5 billion figure may be a record-breaker, but it represents less than Facebook reported in net profit ($5.43 billion) for the first [...]

  • United States Secretary of Labor Alexander

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta Resigning Amid Epstein Controversy

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has tendered his resignation to President Trump after facing criticism for a plea deal he struck with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 after Epstein was charged with luring teenage girls to his mansion for sex. According to the Los Angeles Times, Trump made the announcement Friday, telling reporters that Acosta [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content