Conservative Political Commentary

[Under the Radar?] Anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-globalist, pro-Constitution, and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context (This blog was given its name before I decided it was going to be a political blog.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

FCC Should Stay Away from Internet Regulation

Seal of the United States Federal Communicatio...Image via WikipediaOn December 21, 2010, the FCC issued regulations for “Network Neutrality” for the Internet. Despite FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s stated intention to regulate with a “light touch,” the regulations (found here) weigh in at 194 pages.

There are several reasons why FCC regulation of the Internet is a bad idea.

Nick Gillespie of describes three of them in a YouTube video that takes less than three minutes:

The rules were issued on a 3-2 party line vote and represent simply another Obama Administration power grab. Al least one commissioner agrees that the FCC lacks the authority to do this kind of regulating.

Robert McDowell, a Republican, dissented from the vote, saying the FCC did not have the legal authority to enact Internet regulations. The real effect, he predicted, would be: “Less investment. Less innovation. Increased business costs. Increased prices for consumers. Disadvantages to smaller ISPs. Jobs lost.” [1]

As Gillespie pointed out, these rules would inevitably lead to content regulation as well. The FCC claims the power to regulate TV content and to impose substantial fines. In the past week, a judge has ruled against the FCC’s attempt to levy a maximum fine for a NYPD Blue episode that contained a seven-second shot of a woman’s bare behind. And of course we remember Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and how that offended the government watchdogs.

AT&T and Verizon claim, with good reason, the right to provide “premium services” that result in handling some customers’ messages in a better way than others’. There are enough ISP’s that if a user is dissatisfied, he/she may choose another provider. The Internet lends itself to innovation and competition. No government regulation such as the FCC has issued has been necessary up to now, and if and when abuses occur, there are already adequate means to deal with them.

Must we have government regulating every detail of our lives? The FCC has long been wanting to regulate cable and satellite TV. They should stick to their original mission of supervising use of scarce spectrum and such narrow issues where regulation is actually needed.

As Larry Downes sees it,
Caught between a rock and a hard place, and with a skeptical Republican majority set to take over the House in January, today's decision is a Hail Mary pass. It was the chairman's last hope of passing something and moving on to other important, and languishing, matters, including spectrum reform and the forgotten National Broadband Plan. If carriers decide to challenge the order, the FCC will have to relitigate the Comcast decision without the benefit of any new authority from Congress. [2]

I have not addressed the idea that the FCC is no longer needed. For me, that is an article for another time. For now, I simply say, let’s hope the courts won’t allow these regulations to stand, and that Congress won’t give the FCC any more power.

[1] Declan McCullagh, “FCC Net neutrality rules reach mobile apps,” 12/23/2010, CNet News.

[2] Larry Downes, “FCC’s Net neutrality ruling: Misplaced nostalgia,” 12/21/2010, CNet News.

Photo: FCC seal. Public domain.
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