FCC Reclaims Some Broadband Oversight From FTC

Net Neutrality

The agencies will nullify their existing memo of understanding when net neutrality rules go into effect.

Jake Neenan FCC Reclaims Some Broadband Oversight From FTC Photo from Allen & Allen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2024 – The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Trade Commission taking back some oversight duties over broadband providers.

The MOU dissolves the agencies’ 2017 agreement in which the FTC took on enforcement duties after the Trump-era FCC repealed net neutrality rules and reduced its authority over ISPs. The FCC voted to restore those rules last week and reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.

The move brings back FCC authority to, among other things, stop providers from throttling or prioritizing certain kinds of traffic and ensure some consumer privacy protections. That led the agencies to terminate the 2017 MOU, but they’re leaving in place two other agreements: a 2015 MOU stating the agencies will work together on consumer protection investigations, and a 2003 MOU related to the national do-not-call registry.

“If consumers have problems, they expect the Nation’s expert authority on communications to be able to respond.  Now we can,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “In partnership with our colleagues at the FTC, we will protect consumers and ensure internet openness, defend national security, and monitor network resiliency and reliability.”

The memo goes into effect once the FCC’s net neutrality order does, which is set for 60 days after its publication in the federal register. Broadband trade groups have signaled intent to take the agency to court over the rules, as they’re currently doing with the agency’s digital discrimination rules and other policies, which could further delay the effective date.

A draft federal data privacy bill unveiled earlier this month would preempt the Communications Act privacy rules and hand enforcement duties for data privacy violations back to the FTC – except for section 222 of the act, under which the agency fined mobile carriers $200 million this week, and data breach rules instituted in December.

The FCC instituted more robust privacy rules of its own on ISPs in 2016, when net neutrality was in place and broadband was a Title II service, but Congress stepped in to nullify them on the basis they conflicted with FTC rules for edge providers like Google and Netflix.