FTC Stresses Need to Consider Competition and Consumer Protection in Developing National Broadband Plan

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission today filed comments in response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry regarding development of a National Broadband Plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability. In its comments, the FTC states that the FCC should take into consideration the FTC’s two primary missions – promoting competition and protecting consumers in the marketplace.

“The FCC deserves tremendous credit for its leadership in creating a national broadband policy that will help bring high-speed Internet access and services to Americans across the nation,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “As the agency that shares jurisdiction over broadband and the Internet, we look forward to working with the FCC in fulfilling this historic mission. We believe that the FTC’s core competencies – promoting competition and meaningful consumer protection – are critical to ensuring that broadband is available, affordable, and consumer-friendly.”

The FTC comments point out that competition and consumer protection work together to benefit consumers. Competition pressures producers and service providers to offer customers the most attractive array of choices with respect to price, quality, and other options. At the same time, consumer protection policy promotes informed decision-making by customers and requires sellers to provide meaningful, timely information about their products and services. If competition and consumer protection are considered in developing the National Broadband Plan, the FTC believes consumers’ access to the Internet will be improved, as will their ability to enjoy specific content and applications once they have broadband capability.

The FTC’s comments question whether there is significant competition within the broadband arena. To evaluate that competition and tailor appropriate regulatory policies, the FTC suggests that the FCC use some of the analytical tools used by the FTC and DOJ in antitrust cases.

Consumer protections also are essential to help foster greater adoption of broadband. They include meaningful and timely disclosures of service terms by broadband providers and strong data security policies that will safeguard consumer information and ease potential consumer concerns aboutonline privacy. Privacy protections are particularly important, given new technologies that allow broadband providers to track consumers’ online activities, to identify the source and content of much of the data they handle, and to manage that data in increasingly sophisticated ways, such as delivering targeted advertising online.

Finally, the FTC comments describe the substantial research and law enforcement resources the FTC has devoted to the intersection of the Internet, broadband, and competition and consumer protection policy, and states that the Commission is dedicated to continued law enforcement and consumer education initiatives for this emerging market.

The Commission vote approving the comments was 4-0. They were submitted to the FCC on September 4, 2009.

Copies of the comments are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

(FTC File No. V090010)
(FCC Comments.final.wpd)

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