Arrogant FCC Takes Control Over Internet

Published December 23, 2010

By a 3-2 vote, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s latest network neutrality iteration came to pass, reeking of bureaucratic arrogance.

Arrogance not only toward the majority of the public who expressed their contentment with the Internet without government intrusion, but also toward a Congress that refused to relinquish any statutory authority whatsoever to the FCC, and toward industry stakeholders warning of the negative economic and employment impact of the maneuver. The prolonged uncertainty injected into an industry known for rapid advancements will most certainly stifle innovations and investment.

Perhaps most damning, the FCC is showing arrogance toward the U.S. Appeals Court, which told the FCC to back off last April because only Congress has the authority to implement rules over the Internet. The court’s finding was unanimous.

Genachowski and his equally tone-deaf fellow Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael J. Copps refused to listen to the sound arguments, read the numerous studies, or even look across the pond to see that even the European Union has rejected net neutrality principles as a disaster in the making.

Instead, they charged full-speed ahead to … what, exactly?

As incoming House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “It’s the Chicago Way.” By this, he meant bullying and thuggery.

The events leading up to the December 21 FCC monthly meeting bear out Upton’s assessment. The meeting was pushed back one week, to the beginning of the Christmas holiday when Washington DC empties out more quickly than a pair of sandals at a leper colony. What was to be voted on wasn’t disclosed until the actual meeting, and all prior information was a mishmash of 2,000 random documents data-dumped to the public a mere 10 days prior to the meeting.

This from a chairman who in his confirmation hearings vowed complete transparency.

And this from his law school buddy, President Barack Obama: “Today’s decision will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech. Throughout this process, parties on all sides of this issue—from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers—came together to make their voices heard. This decision is an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.”

Every bit of that statement is false. Study after study over the past five years has laid waste to every claim in the president’s hollow rhetoric. Researchers at New York University concluded earlier this year the U.S. economy will lose nearly 500,000 jobs in the next 20 years as a result of backward-looking policy from the FCC.

And so Upton and his House cohorts are left no choice but to spend time and taxpayer dollars to rein in Genachowski’s rogue agency.

“The FCC’s hostile actions toward innovation, investment, and job creation cannot be allowed to stand,” Upton said. “We must use every resource available, including the Congressional Review Act, to strike down the FCC’s brazen effort to regulate the Internet. … Despite FCC claims that these are just rules of the road that everyone agrees with, anyone can recognize that what the commission claims to be statements of broad industry support are really cries of ‘uncle’ resulting from threats of even more onerous regulation. All the commission has done today is further harm our economy and job growth.”

Michigan native Upton should know. As our mutual home state has been among those hardest hit economically by feel-good boondoggles promoted by telegenic politicos, we know it’s hard to get the car out of the swamp when the driver brought the wrong keys.

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