It is time for the Trump administration and Congress to get together, and not just to put a bandage on the budget or kick the can down Constitution Avenue with yet another extension. They need to fill seats on the Federal Trade Commission, whose majority is now three empty chairs.
The FTC needs to have a permanent chairman and at least enough members for a three-handed cribbage game.
Currently, there are only two FTC members, an acting Republican chair and a Democratic commissioner. Unlike with the FCC, two commissioners can actually act, as long as they agree — the FCC requires a quorum for votes — but if they disagree, there is a stalemate. The FTC needs to be at full strength for its potential new heavy lift.
The FCC’s Republican majority decided that the FTC can handle some new — actually the return of some old — broadband regulatory authority, specifically serving as the principal overseer determining whether internet access is competitive or anticompetitive. That was one of the results of the FCC’s Dec. 14 decision to roll back Title II classification of ISPs and eliminate the hard and fast rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. The explanation for why that would work included oversight and potential action by the FTC under its authority over false, deceptive and unfair conduct.
Giving the FTC that authority can be debated, but what can’t be is the need for more bodies on the agency to handle that new authority and insure there are no political stalemates.