WASHINGTON – President’s Trump’s nominees for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) told U.S. Senators they’re willing to regulate big tech firms like Google and Facebook if necessary.
The four nominees are: Joseph Simons (Republican chair), Rohit Chopra (Democrat), Noah Joshua Phillips (Republican), and Christine S. Wilson (Republican)
Simons said he opposed government interference just because of a company’s size but added if a company is using anticompetitive means to get big or stay big, “then we should be vigorously enforcing the antitrust laws and prohibiting that conduct.”
Wilson said she would support looking into unlawful conduct “and following the facts where they lead.”
Phillips said the FCC has a “big role” in applying the law carefully and fairly and keeping up with trends. He said he would help keep the agency abreast of those developments and, if there are violations of the law, no matter who was committing them, the FTC would enforce the law.
Chopra said it has been a challenge to predict how market dynamics occur and that the FTC needed to engage in constant learning. He also said that it was an area “to be humble” and continue to “learn the dynamics.”
Senators also asked nominees about possible FTC oversight of net neutrality matters. When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revoked net neutrality rules in December, FCC chair Ajit Pai said the FTC would police the carriers. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) asked Simons whether the FTC was in a position to enforce open internet principles.
Simons suggested that he would like to do so but acknowledged that the FTC currently can’t prosecute broadband carriers. “My view is that the FTC, if it gets back its authority in the internet space, it is going to be a vigorous enforcer,” Simons said. “We’re going to take the statutory authority we have and use it as best we can.”
Chopra shared “skepticism and concerns” regarding the agency’s ability to police broadband. “Given online litigation and rulings in the Ninth Circuit, the FTC may face an unlevel playing field where some major market participants are exempt from the commission’s authority while others are subject to it,” he said.