On December 6th, Deputy Assistant Jon Sallet of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division spoke at the Capitol Forum Broadband Competition Conference in Washington, DC. Sallet spent several years at the FCC and in July 2016 announced that he would begin working for the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Sallet’s remarks emphasized the importance of competition for the health of the Internet ecosystem. He pointed out that, in order for residents, businesses, and other entities to get the most out of the possibilities of Internet access, policy, regulation, and enforcement must encourage the mosaic that comes with competition. The DOJ will have decide how it wishes to apply these considerations as it faces upcoming decisions about potential mergers, such as the proposed CenturyLink and Level 3 merger or the AT&T and Time Warner merger.
When shaping our approach, he argues, we must consider four powerful elements that require a delicate balance:
- First, competition is the best driver of innovation and consumer benefits in the Internet ecosystem; that ecosystem in which broadband connectivity is a critical component. Thus it is important to understand the state of competition, especially in those high speed connections that provide today the platform for so many complementary services provided by what we now call “the edge.”
- Second, both antitrust law and public policy must rest upon a sound understanding of the incentives and abilities of broadband providers to artificially shape competition not only in the markets for residential Internet access but also in complementary markets across the Internet ecosystem. Here it is valuable to reflect upon the decades-long conclusion that telecommunications networks hold gatekeeper power that can be used to threaten competition.
- Third, government should protect competition from artificial constraint that injures consumers and, especially in dynamic markets, threatens the future of innovation. The shared, overlapping jurisdiction of the FCC and the division focuses on the review of telecommunications mergers. Such reviews should be carried out always with a clear- eyed vision of the impact of market conditions on consumers today and innovation tomorrow.
- Finally, the FCC has determined that an Open Internet advances economic and social goals so important that they...