Last week was a difficult week for antitrust and consumer rights advocates. On Monday, the net neutrality rules (the ones that kept internet service providers from acting as gatekeepers of the internet) officially went off the books. (We are, of course, fighting to bring them back.) The next day, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon issued a ruling permitting the AT&T/Time Warner mega-merger to proceed, in a lawsuit brought on by the Department of Justice. This ruling was more troubling news for consumers, as well as for the future of online competition.
Back in 2011, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that Facebook deceived consumers by failing to keep its promises to protect user privacy. The two parties agreed to settle the charges through something called an “agreement containing consent order.” The Commission also signed a consent agreement with Google that same year. The FTC issued a final Decision and Consent Order regarding the Facebook allegations in 2012. (A consent order is an FTC enforcement tool that operates like a legal settlement.) Without admitting to the complaint’s counts, the parties involved signed a document that basically says, “we both agree to enter this agreement to resolve the allegations in the complaint, so now you have to do the following things, and if you fail to do any of them, the FTC is going to impose financial penalties.”
On June 20-21, the European Parliament will vote on the European Commission’s update of the Copyright Directive. The Directive aims to modernize the EU’s copyright rules to handle problems posed by the evolving digital world, with the stated goal of creating legislation that will unify Europe’s “Digital Single Market.” It has been the subject of international scrutiny, as European technology policy changes often spark global changes.
Today, June 11, marks the end of the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. The agency created the rules in its landmark 2015 Open Internet Order, which prevented internet service providers from blocking websites, throttling connection speeds, or engaging in paid prioritization schemes to charge for “fast lane” access. The FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted to repeal the rules in December 2017, ignoring millions of Americans who urged the agency to put people first by keeping the rules.