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Rutledge Fights to Protect Broadband Consumer Protections


June 19, 2017

Petition to FCC from industry intended to strip attorneys general authority

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined a bipartisan coalition of 35 attorneys general in opposing a cable telecommunications industry petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intended to stop states from enforcing laws intended to prevent false advertising related to internet speeds.

In a comment submitted to the FCC on Friday, the attorneys general underscored the long-standing critical role they have played in protecting broadband consumers. As the comment letter points out, the industry is seeking a ruling that exceeds the authority of the FCC, is procedurally improper and would upend the longstanding dual federal-state regulation of deceptive practices in the telecommunications industry. Rutledge and her colleagues believe this would leave consumers across the country without the basic state protections from unfair and deceptive business practices that help ensure they are receiving the internet speeds for which they are paying.

“Arkansans deserve complete honesty when it comes to any advertisement for goods and services,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The need for faster internet speeds and increased access to broadband is something I hear routinely when I travel our State, and my ability to protect Arkansans from misleading providers is something that must be protected.”

The industry’s petition was submitted on May 15 by two trade associations representing fixed and wireless broadband companies (USTelecom and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association). The petition seeks to enlist the FCC in improperly gutting state and federal requirements that bar deceptive advertising of internet speeds. Specifically, the petition asks the FCC to convert a limited safe harbor from FCC’s own enforcement into blanket federal and state immunity for fixed and wireless broadband companies from liability for false statements contained in advertisements and marketing.

In their comment, the attorneys general detail several improper aspects of the industry petition, including that the FCC lacks the authority to displace longstanding State consumer protection enforcement. “As the chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we understand the vital importance of protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices — including those of broadband providers. Like others providing goods and services to consumers in our states, providers of broadband internet service must be truthful in their advertisements. Broadband access is an essential aspect of our constituents’ work, life and play. The states’ traditional consumer protection powers must be left undisturbed to protect consumers from false and misleading claims by broadband providers regarding the provision of services that are an essential part of 21st century life throughout the United States,” the attorneys general wrote.

Led by the states of New York and Texas, Rutledge is joined on the letter by her colleagues from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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