Existing net neutrality laws are getting flushed down the toilet, there's little doubt about that. Despite the protests and warnings of what could potentially follow, the FCC, led by chairman Ajit Pai, is going to strip away protections when it votes on net neutrality later this week. In place of existing rules, the FCC and FTC are partnering to police the web to make sure it doesn't turn into the wild west afterwards. Well, in theory, anyway.
As outlined, the agreement calls for the FTC to look into claims of bad behavior by ISPs once existing rules have been dismantled.
"Consistent with its jurisdiction, the FTC will investigate and take enforcement action as appropriate against Internet service providers for unfair, deceptive, or otherwise unlawful acts or practices, including but not limited to, actions pertaining to the accuracy of the disclosures such providers make pursuant to the Internet Freedom Order’s requirements, as well as their marketing, advertising, and promotional activities," the agreement reads.
This FCC-FTC Memorandum of Understanding, as it's called, sounds okay on the surface, but there is plenty of skepticism surrounding how effective it can really be.
"The agreement announced today between the FCC and FTC is a confusing, lackluster, reactionary afterthought: an attempt to paper over weaknesses in the chairman’s draft proposal repealing the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules," Democratic FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement, according to The Hill.
Looked at through a lens of gloom and doom, the fear is that ISPs will have free reign to pretty much do whatever they want, so long as they disclose what they're doing.
"There is no comfort in this announcement from the FTC," said Chris Lewis, vice president of the consumer group Public Knowledge. "Not only is the FCC eliminating basic net neutrality rules, but it’s joining forces with the FTC to say it will only act when a broadband provider is deceiving the public. This gives free reign to broadband providers to block or throttle your broadband service as long as they inform you of it."
The other side of the argument is that companies would be shooting themselves in the foot if they opted to screw over consumers, even if they're being upfront about it. But given the lack of competition in some regions, voting with your wallet may not be easy, or even feasible.