Morning Bell: It’s Time to Stop the FCC Internet Czars
Imagine a future where the Internet is governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, DC, who rule at their own whim, regardless of legislators’ demands or judicial rule. Sadly, that future is now.
And while the threat of unnecessary and harmful government regulation is worrisome, the way in which the FCC is pursuing its expanded powers is flat out alarming. Federal agencies like the FCC only have power as granted to them by Congress under the law. In this case, the FCC is charging forward full steam ahead, ignoring both Congress and the courts in order to act as it pleases — in effect, making the FCC commissioners self-proclaimed Internet Czars.
Wave goodbye to Internet freedom
FCC crosses the Rubicon into online regulation
With a straight face, Mr. Genachowski suggested that government red tape will increase the "freedom" of online services that have flourished because bureaucratic busybodies have been blocked from tinkering with the Web.
The FCC's Threat to Internet Freedom
Nothing is broken that needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net-neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.
Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being "data driven" in its pursuit of mandates—i.e., listening to the needs of the market.
To date, the FCC hasn't ruled out increasing its power further by using the phone monopoly laws, directly or indirectly regulating rates someday, or expanding its reach deeper into mobile broadband services. The most expansive regulatory regimes frequently started out modest and innocuous before incrementally growing into heavy-handed behemoths.
On this winter solstice, we will witness jaw-dropping interventionist chutzpah as the FCC bypasses branches of our government in the dogged pursuit of needless and harmful regulation. The darkest day of the year may end up marking the beginning of a long winter's night for Internet freedom.
Mr. McDowell is a Republican commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.
Nothing Changed This Week-The FCC Still Has No Authority to Regulate the Internet
What was true before FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s Tuesday midnight run to grab power over the Web remains true today – the FCC does not have the authority to do what they have just announced they will do on December 21st.
Unless and until the Congress enacts law making it so, the FCC doesn’t have the authority to do anything. December’s vote to commandeer control of the Internet is no more legitimate than – and just as capricious as – if they were to vote themselves masters of all the nation’s pizza joints.
The FCC – no government agency – can just decide they want to regulate an industry – and then vote themselves power over it. That’s not constitutional, representative, limited government – that’s Hugo Chavez-style expropriative despotism.
And it’s not as if The Chairman has been suffering from a dearth of people pointing out his lack of authority. We have repeatedly pointed it out. And it hasn’t just been us.
In April, the D.C. Circuit Court said so, unanimously ruling the obvious – that the Commission does not have the authority to do anything to the Internet.
Then 302 members of Congress said the same – a large bipartisan majority. So then did more than 150 organizations, state legislators and bloggers, seventeen minority groups (that are usually almost always in Democrat lockstep) and many additional normally Democrat paragons including several large unions, several racial grievance groups and at least one anti-free market environmentalist group.
And then The Chairman officially announced his intent to usurp authority.
Obama's mystery proposal to regulate the Internet
In their net neutrality quest, Genachowski and two of his fellow Democratic appointees are working to expand government power into an area where the commission has no jurisdiction, under the guise of solving a problem that does not exist.
This exercise in government opacity and overreach is already damaging the economy. As major telecommunications and Internet service companies prepare to roll out new fourth generation (4G) wireless service for millions of customers, these unelected bureaucratic commissars are recklessly creating doubt about the future value and profitability of those companies' investments. They are also discouraging future investments that need to be made for the Internet to continue its phenomenal growth.
Federal courts will almost certainly strike down anything the FCC adopts Tuesday, just as they did earlier this year. Congress will also have its chance to undo Genachowski's handiwork through the Congressional Review Act. But why should we have to go this far to rein in a government agency supposedly run by people who took an oath to "support and defend" our Constitution? Is Obama unable to make his own appointees obey the law? Either way, the new Congress should hold Obama accountable for what the FCC is now doing in his name.
Conservatives Plan Countermeasures to Neutralize FCC Internet Edict
More than 300 members of Congress from both parties contacted the FCC in the spring, demanding they defer to Capitol Hill on rules governing the internet, and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals dealt the FCC’s online regulatory ambitions a severe rebuke in April. The American people had their say on the matter, too: All 95 Congressional candidates who ran on an explicitly pro-net neutrality platform in 2010 lost.
Despite clear opposition from two branches of the federal government and the American people, the FCC has forged ahead with its aggressive regulations.
The subtext to this brewing fight is the question of how far Congress will allow the executive branch to implement its agenda through increased regulation and rulemaking, bypassing the legislative process. This approach was advocated in a 54-page report published by the liberal Center for American Progress in November. “Pushing back against the FCC will set the tone for the next two years about how aggressive the Obama administration can be in pursing regulatory regimes. This fight is the first opportunity for Congress to show whether it has the will to stand up to these executive branch power grabs,” Kerpen said.
Both Blackburn and Kerpen also mentioned the appropriations process as a safety net solution to impeding a regulatory onslaught, if legislative fixes fall short. “If the Congressional Review Act fails, we can look to appropriations to starve any funding for enforcement,” Kerpen said.