An FCC Chairman Drunk with Power

Published May 31, 2016

Still intoxicated by his expansion of the FCC’s regulatory and rulemaking powers in December—when he rammed net neutrality rules into place and forced outrageous concessions from Comcast and NBC Universal before granting his approval for their merger—FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski poured himself another shot of power-grab last week.

Genachowski is proposing the FCC redirect a portion of the $8 billion Universal Service Fund currently subsidizing rural telecommunications to supercharge the commission’s broadband efforts for underserved areas. Genachowski refers to the program as “wasteful and inefficient” and wants to direct some of that money to another totally unnecessary endeavor, like pouring old rotgut into shiny new Mason jars.

The USF money comes from a hefty 15.5 percent tax the government imposes on interstate phone calls. The very same FCC that sheds crocodile tears over “bill shock” for customers who can’t be bothered to read their own phone contracts is happy to take billions of dollars raised by government “fees” conveniently tucked away in the fine print of customers’ phone bills.

In a press statement heralding the FCC’s rechanneling of USF profits to the Connect America Fund, Genachowski posits the spending as necessary for economic growth: “Ubiquitous broadband infrastructure has become crucial to our nation’s economic development and civic life. Businesses need broadband to start and grow, adults need broadband to find jobs, and children need broadband to learn.”

Ignored in Genachowski’s earnest offer to buy a round of drinks for the house is that broadband Internet access is already enjoyed by nearly 95 percent of the population. And that’s without including those with satellite and wireless broadband. The miniscule percentage of people currently without service—in remote rural and tribal areas—will be the only beneficiaries of this new largesse.

As with Genachowski’s incessant bureaucratic meddling in Internet regulations over the past year, he and the other two Democrats on the FCC are devising expensive solutions to nonexistent problems in the mistaken notion everyone has a right to Internet access at the taxpayers’ expense.

The definition of rights has been so corrupted by the semantic mangling of bureaucratic elites it won’t be long before the promise of a “chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” becomes “a vegetarian delicacy on every bone china dinner plate and high-speed Internet access for all.”

The Obama administration’s promise of an Internet easily and affordably accessed in every nook and cranny from sea to shining sea means nothing more than a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. A better idea that would benefit a vastly greater portion of the nation’s population would be to lower the USF tax significantly or, better yet, rescind it completely.

By rebranding the USF as the CAF, Genachowski is proposing another round of the same potent concoction of mismanagement, waste, and inefficiencies for this $8 billion pried out of the nation’s taxpayers.

The chairman is in the throes of a wicked power bender on the country’s credit card. It’s time for an intervention. Let’s start by grabbing his car keys.

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Infotech & Telecom News.