Amid the ongoing discussion surrounding “net neutrality,” the FTC’s role in overseeing broadband Internet access service (BIAS) has received increasing scrutiny following the recent passage of the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order (“RIF Order”). Several recent developments indicate that, although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will continue to have a shared role in monitoring broadband markets, the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) will take the lead in investigating and bringing enforcement actions against Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for practices that raise anticompetitive concerns. Therefore, commercial stakeholders should pay careful attention to
In the first major transaction approval under Ajit Pai’s Chairmanship, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) recently approved, subject to targeted, transaction-specific conditions, license and authorization transfers in connection with CenturyLink’s $34 billion acquisition of Level 3. The FCC’s recitation of its merger review standard in its order (the “CenturyLink-Level 3 Order”) differed somewhat from the description of the standard used in recent transactions reviewed during the Obama administration. The Commissioners’ separate statements debated whether the new formulation merely clarified the FCC’s existing standard or constituted a substantial alteration of the
Several recent high-profile mergers in the communications industry have faced scrutiny from multiple U.S. federal agencies. These transactions, both successful and unsuccessful, have drawn attention to the process by which the U.S. government approves or blocks mergers and acquisitions in the communications and broadband Internet industries. Parallel investigations by both the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Department of Justice highlight the similarities and differences between their respective merger review processes. While the agencies analyze transactions simultaneously and in consultation with each other, each agency follows different standards and processes for their
Last week, a unanimous Ninth Circuit panel issued a significant decision that holds that common carriers are categorically exempt from Section 5 of the FTC Act—even for activities unrelated to common carriage. See AT&T Mobility LLC. v. Fed. Trade Comm’n, No. 15-16585, 2016 WL 4501685 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2016). This opinion has potentially far-reaching implications for the telecommunications industry and the appropriate oversight roles of the FCC and FTC—including on data privacy and security issues.
On August 10, 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Order that had sought to preempt Tennessee’s and North Carolina’s laws restricting local municipalities’ ability to provide broadband service. The Court found that the FCC had exceeded its statutory authority by preempting state laws without clear authorization from Congress.
On April 4, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in collaboration with the Consumer Financial Protraction Bureau, unveiled standardized consumer broadband labels that will list information about the price and performance of fixed and mobile broadband service. While the FCC will not require broadband providers to adopt the broadband labels, the FCC explained that the labels will provide a safe harbor for complying with the enhanced Open Internet transparency requirements that the FCC adopted in March 2015. The consumer broadband labels could provide broadband providers with a convenient method of
A recent decision by India’s telecom regulator to prohibit differential charges for Internet content – which effectively blocked Facebook from offering its Free Basics service in the country – highlights how regulators around the globe continue to work through whether and how “zero-rating” data services may be permissible under their country’s net neutrality framework. Zero-rating services allow consumers to access certain content without being charged for that data. For example, Facebook’s Free Basics program offers users no-fee access to a text-only mobile version of the Facebook social network, as well