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Consumers Union: FCC Move to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules Would Fundamentally Harm Consumers, Competition

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

CU says FCC plan to rely on FTC to go after internet providers is a “giant gamble” that could leave millions of consumers unprotected


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposal by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to repeal the commission’s net neutrality rules that require internet providers to treat all online content and services equally. The five-member commission is expected to approve the repeal by a party-line vote.

Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, is a strong advocate for net neutrality rules in order to preserve the open and competitive nature of the internet for all consumers.

Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “This proposal would limit consumer choices, harm competition, and hit people squarely in the wallet.  Without net neutrality rules, an internet provider is free to play favorites among websites and apps.  This move by the FCC lets your internet provider give preferential treatment to some sites, while saddling others with slower speeds and higher costs to reach consumers.  The FCC plan undermines the fundamental principles of the internet as we know it, where information flows freely and businesses large and small can compete on a level playing field.”

The FCC’s Pai maintains that net neutrality will be preserved after the rules are repealed because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can step in to protect consumers from any bad acts that internet providers might commit in the future

But Jessica Rich, the vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports and former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, noted in a recent Washington Post op-ed that there are fundamental questions about the FTC’s authority over internet providers.  A long-running legal dispute between the FTC and AT&T could lead to a court ruling that strips the FTC of its jurisdiction over any services offered by a telecom company.

Rich said, “Relying on the FTC to assume enforcement power over Internet providers is a giant gamble. Depending on what happens in court, millions of broadband customers could be left without any regulator or enforcer to act on their behalf after the repeal of the net neutrality rules. At the very least, shouldn’t we wait and see what happens in this case before charging forward with repeal?”

A recent nationally-representative survey by Consumer Reports says the majority of Americans support net neutrality rules to prevent internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content on the internet.  The CR survey finds 57 percent of Americans support the current net neutrality rules, while 16 percent oppose them and 27 percent did not state an opinion. The survey shows strong opposition to practices by providers that are prohibited by the rules today, such as the 67 percent who disagree that providers should be able to choose which websites, apps or streaming services customers can access.

The Consumer Reports phone survey was fielded by ORC using a nationally-representative sample. The survey was conducted from July 20-23, 2017. The study was conducted using two probability samples: randomly selected landline telephone numbers and randomly selected mobile (cell) telephone numbers. The combined sample consists of 1,005 adults (18 years old and older) living in the continental United States. Of the 1,005 interviews, 504 were from the landline sample and 501 from the cell phone sample. The margin of error for the sample of 1,005 is +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.  Final data is weighted by age, gender, region, race/ethnicity and education to be proportionally representative of the U.S. adult population.


Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, or Kara Kelber, kara.kelber@consumer.org202-462-6262

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 7 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its policy and mobilization division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.