by Capitol Confidential
In the wake of the Court of Appeals judgment last week that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lacks sufficient authority to regulate broadband services, senior congressional Democrats are reaffirming their support for alternative methods of executing what some critics charge would be a de facto government takeover of the internet.
Rep. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and co-author of the House’s Internet Freedom Preservation Act, said the FCC should “take any actions necessary to ensure that consumers and competition are protected on the internet,” and offered to “continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to provide the Commission any additional authority it may need to ensure the openness of the Internet for consumers, innovators and investors.”
Markey, like FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, is a backer of net neutrality, a policy that would inadvertently be instituted were the FCC to reclassify broadband services under existing rules relating to telephone services, and directly instituted were his bill passed and signed into law.
Fellow Massachusetts Democrat Sen. John Kerry, meanwhile, insisted that while it is within the authority of the FCC to reclassify broadband he is not advocating such aggressive action.
“I am not advocating that the FCC reclassify broadband services as a result of this decision,” Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said. “But I absolutely believe they maintain that legal authority and it would be entirely consistent with the history of communications laws in our country if they did.”
Kerry went on to say that Congress did not intend for ”cable and telephone broadband internet service providers to fall outside of the authority of the FCC,” and therefore that he would be willing to work with “all interested parties” on the construction of “a new legal and regulatory framework for broadband, especially if reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service proves too difficult to administer.”
Democratic FCC commissioners, for their part, seem determined to attempt to reclassify broadband as a Title II service, which (if done successfully) would enable the agency to effectively regulate the internet and institute net neutrality by the back door.
“The only way the Commission can make lemonade out of this lemon of a decision is to do now what should have been done years ago: treat broadband as the telecommunications service it is,” Michael J. Copps said. “We should straighten this broadband classification mess out before the first day of summer.”
Observers say that if the FCC does what is being discussed, it is likely to kick off “World War III,” with broadband providers effectively going to battle with the agency in what could be a politically messy showdown, in which other groups who firmly oppose net neutrality—including, prominently, minority and civil rights organizations— could also weigh in.
Congressional Republicans have vehemently opposed both plans to institute net neutrality and to pursue reclassification, with Rep. Joe Barton saying last month that ”The worst idea I’ve heard in years is reclassification.” He added that “I don’t want to regulate broadband like we regulated telephone services in the 1930s.” In addition, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan and Genachowski had a lengthy exchange when Genachowski appeared before House members to discuss regulation of the internet. Rep. Rogers’ office says he does not believe such regulation via direct institution of net neutrality or reclassification is the best way to encourage innovation and increase investment in broadband infrastructure, two ostensible goals of net neutrality advocates.
Observers say it bears noting in all of this, however, that, skepticism of and opposition to net neutrality has not been confined just to Republican ranks: Last year, 72 House Democrats signaled doubts about net neutrality in a letter to Genachowski.
Posted: April 08, 2010
1:00 am Eastern
Advocates of smaller government received some rare good news this week concerning government regulation of the Internet. Where your government is concerned, however, there is no shortage of alternate paths to the same regulated, restricted and controlled future. Almost before the news had broken, statist supporters of government Internet control were already scheming to circumvent a legal ruling that has erected the smallest of roadblocks in their collective path.
Tuesday, the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that, as written by CNET's Declan McCullagh, the "Federal Communications Commission does not have the legal authority to slap Net neutrality regulations on Internet providers." McCullagh went on to point out that "Tuesday's decision could doom one of the signature initiatives of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat. Last October, Genachowski announced plans to begin drafting a formal set of net neutrality rules – even though Congress has not given the agency permission to do so. ... Net neutrality proponents responded ... by saying the FCC should slap landline-style regulations on Internet providers, which could involve price regulation, service quality controls, and technological mandates."
Price regulation. Service controls. Mandates. Do these terms disturb you? Do they disturb you further because they come on the heels of an autocratic federal agency being told it does not have the authority to control what it is attempting to control? Reporters covering the "net neutrality" ruling have blithely speculated as to whether the government might reclassify broadband Internet services as telecommunications services, giving the FCC the authority to enact price controls. This would be the first step in destroying the free market Internet Service Providers (ISPs) serve.
Price controls destroy the normal, natural, practical exchange of value for value among consumers and providers, invariably inviting further government intervention. This is socialism. This is collectivism. Barack Hussein Obama's supporters hate it when the president's critics point this out, but this is why his administration is bad for our country, for our economy and for our liberties.
In February, I wrote here in Technocracy of Obama's totalitarian plans for the Net. I also recapped past coverage of the "net neutrality" issue and how Barack Hussein Obama's administration has advocated this policy. On paper, it sounds worthwhile; most of us want a "free and open Internet" to continue:
We covered the dangers of "net neutrality" in October after first, perhaps optimistically, suggesting that an Internet controlled by the United States and its commitment to individual rights would prevent the establishment of thoughtcrime. It has become clear that a government empowered to enforce its vision of net neutrality will only do harm, interfering in commerce while opening the door to the institution of the very thoughtcrime the concept of "net neutrality" is intended, idealistically, to prevent. Should we be surprised, then, that Barack Hussein Obama is an ardent supporter of this most recent evolution of a once high-minded principle?
Obama has said, "I'm a big believer in net neutrality," and he wants to empower the unelected, unaccountable autocrats at the FCC to force you and your Internet Service Provider to toe his totalitarian line. Even if they lose the court battle over whether Obama can impose new government rules on the Internet, they intend to do it anyway. The overlords at the Federal Communications Commission are even now plotting and scheming to find a way around the law and our court system, inflicting their controls on us regardless of what we want, what our judges say or what the Constitution might contain.
(Column continues below)
The problem, then, is that the "free and open Internet" as mandated and regulated by Barack Hussein Obama's regime would be anything but. As is so often the case where Obama's policies are concerned, the conflict quickly becomes one of Marxist, collectivist, communitarian sensibilities versus traditional American free-market principles. Obama's idea of "net neutrality," meaning his FCC autocrats' idea of "net neutrality," is not about government protecting individual rights to free expression and access to information. No, it is about divorcing service providers from ownership of their privately possessed equipment, mandating that they stop managing their own networks as they deem best. This forces them to own and run their property to their detriment, which is only too common a theme among socialist government-control schemes.
An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday put the argument over "net neutrality" into perspective. "That companies providing a Web service would hurt their customers with less content is a big and unproven assumption," the editorial board wrote. "Some 95 percent of Americans have access to at least four wireless carriers that offer broadband, in addition to ... cable, satellite, and phone line carriers still offering broadband access. That's quite a range of choices ... if companies don't fear more government rules coming down that might discourage investments in this ever-changing industry."
Technological industries grow, develop and evolve amazingly quickly. Centralized government-control schemes suffer from a single, overarching problem that will and does kill this innovation and evolution wherever such controls are applied. That is that government-control schemes cannot respond quickly enough to the market. They cannot compare to the "spontaneous order" of millions of consumers making independent, free choices in a marketplace unencumbered by debilitating government restrictions.
Obama's FCC wants to protect you from yourself and from the onerous freedom of choice. Obama's appointed staff of Marxist czars wants to stop ISPs from managing their own property on the assumption that the equipment owned by these service providers belongs to everyone. This is collectivism. This is Marxism. This is your government grinding your civil liberties underfoot in the name of freedom. This is your president urging that you be controlled in the name of setting you free. This is those in power further deepening that power in the name of protecting the powerless.
This is countless lesser tyrannies, and this is wrong.
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