The Federal Trade Commission has asked Congress to allow it to regulate
telecommunications common carriers.
Saying the traditional boundaries have blurred as telecommunications companies expanded into
noncommon-carrier activities such as entertainment and Internet-service
provision, the FTC wants Congress to eliminate the exemption of those
companies from FTC oversight of unfair and deceptive practices and unfair
The exemption dates from the 1920s, said commissioner Thomas Leary, when
monopoly providers "were not disciplined by competition but by detailed rate and
service regulation [under the Communications Act]."
By contrast, the FTC said in its unanimous appeal, "Congress and the
FCC [Federal Communications Commission] have replaced much of the economic regulatory apparatus formerly applicable
to the industry with competition."
The request came during a House Commerce Subcommittee authorization hearing
Leary said the FTC didn't want to step on any FCC toes.
He cited the agencies' distinct missions -- the FCC's being "gatekeeper into
the limited communications spectrum," the FTC's "to see that any company,
whatever it does, conducts its business with fairness and honesty."