Chairman Pai sees expanded role for FTC, Critics say FTC can’t react quickly, has limited role

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut Obama-era net neutrality rules calls for handing off the job of policing broadband service to an agency with different powers and a different mandate. Giving the Federal Trade Commission oversight for the web can make sense from Pai’s perspective: It’s a consumer-protection agency that already has taken action against high-speed internet providers. But, there’s a key difference: The FCC sets rules designed to prevent bad behavior, while the FTC acts after wrongdoing has occurred. That distinction has become a flash point in the debate over Pai’s proposal, which would change the way the government regulates the internet with far-reaching implications for a host of industries.

Opponents say that reactive nature means the trade commission is too slow to oversee the rapidly evolving digital economy. “It’s not adequate,” said Gigi Sohn, who helped write the current net neutrality rules as a counselor to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015. “If you wait for a case to be through, you can be out of business.” Others say Pai is bringing a powerful watchdog into the fray. “There’s no doubt they can bring cases,” said Roslyn Layton, a visiting scholar with the American Enterprise Institute policy group in Washington. “The FTC has the right people” including economists “used to looking at all kinds of new arrangements” to enforce fair competition, Layton said.


Chairman Pai sees expanded role for FTC, Critics say FTC can’t react quickly, has limited role