The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The Sky is Not Falling, and the World isn't Going to End

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The sign that appears in quaint shops and businesses across the country, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” originated from a 1939 British motivational poster.  This applies universally and over time; it is particularly relevant in a world that responds instantaneously to social media and “news.”

The best example of when this axiom should apply is the frantic blizzard of comments over the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by a 3-2 vote on December 14, 2017.  Despite the naysayers, the world is not going to end after the FCC finishes its monthly business.  What will happen is that the internet will be restored back to its regulatory classification prior to February 2015, when the FCC voted to impose heavy-handed regulations intended for a land-line telephone monopoly from 1934.

One recent iteration of panic run amok is a November 21, 2017 article in The Washington Post, which asserts that the new rules would give internet service providers the ability to choose which sites customers see and use.  Not only is this headline misleading, but it digresses from the fact that the FCC only voted to restore the internet back to the light-touch regulatory regime that had allowed the internet to grow and companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Yahoo to flourish.  Where would these companies be without that light-touch regulatory regime? 

One only needs to look at the progression of telephone innovations under the burdensome Title II common carrier regulations through the last eighty-three years to fully understand exactly why the internet needed something different to regulate it.  The plain old copper wire telephone systems of 1934 are still operational today, with few technological upgrades.  Even though some companies are trying to switch the copper wire out for fiber optic lines, they must go through a lengthy governmental approval process to receive permission to make any changes to their systems.  This is not the internet experience that consumers are expecting. 

Under the restored regulatory regime, there is one significant change to regulations on internet service providers; the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) will regain its role as the cop on the beat for consumer protection and privacy, which was stripped away by the 2015 Order.  The new Order also imposes strong transparency requirements on internet service providers, giving the FTC increased enforcement capabilities against online deceptive practices, including many of those that The Washington Post article claims will victimize consumers.

On December 11, 2017, Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on how the changes in rules would affect online consumer protection moving forward from adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.  The MOU details the capabilities of both agencies for consumer protection in the online space, and which agency would be the enforcement mechanism for different types of online activities.  As the MOU notes, the FTC will investigate and take enforcement action against ISPs concerning the accuracy of disclosures regarding blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and congestion management, as well as other deceptive or unfair acts or practices involving ISP provided broadband services.

It is time for people to get a grip.  As the saying goes, Keep Calm and Carry On, or basically enjoy the internet just as you always have, knowing that the FTC now once again has your back.  And, as I post this article, my internet is working just fine.

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