Net Neutrality Day for the Direct Response Industry

by Bill McClellan on Dec 13, 2017 11:28:35 AM Government Relations

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A while back, I blogged on the pending Net Neutrality action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced plans to upend the current FCC Net Neutrality protections finalized in 2015. That effort, slated to start Thursday, December 14, is expected to result in an adverse ruling for our industry.

There are indications that this ruling will immediately be challenged in court by consumer protection groups who feel that they have a strong case. Expect an extended court battle after the vote. Upon conclusion of the court proceedings, advocates on both sides will be able to more fully determine next steps.

The hearing should be something of a political circus with a group called the Voices of Internet Freedom reported to be planning protests outside the venue. Expected participants will include Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

There are two other Net Neutrality developments I want to take a moment to highlight against this backdrop.

First, members of Congress are chomping at the bit to get involved with the action. Reports indicate that Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are exploring their options to drop a bipartisan Net Neutrality bill next year. Similarly, in the House of Representatives, Greg Walden (R-OR) has indicated that he also sees opportunity to legislate on Net Neutrality in that chamber. Stay tuned for more developments in the courts and Congress in 2018.

Of equal interest to direct response marketers was the announced memo of understanding (MOU) between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FCC on the issue. The topic of the MOU was defining enforcement jurisdictions after the expected rollback.

While it is too early to tell the practical outcomes of this announcement, the response was predictable and broke down along party lines. Republican stakeholders applauded the move with Democratic legislators found primarily in opposition.

What we do know is that the FCC plans on reviewing informal complaints against Internet Service Providers concerning blocking, throttling, paid prioritization and congestion management. The FTC will review and enforce the accuracy of disclosures as well as any other deceptive or unfair acts or practices involving broadband services. Both agencies will share legal and technical expertise with each other and will collaborate on consumer and industry outreach and education.

The bottom line? 2018 stands to look like yet another year of Net Neutrality news and activity.


 About the Author

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Bill McClellan serves as ERA's Vice President of Government Affairs. Prior to joining the association, Bill worked as a lobbyist at the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, covering the state legislature and Georgia's congressional delegation. Before working for the GADA, Bill managed political campaigns at both the congressional and state constitutional levels.

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