Free-Market Groups Call on Congress to Reaffirm ‘Internet Independence’

Published October 16, 2015

A coalition of free-market organizations created the Declaration of Internet Independence, an online campaign calling on Congress to reclaim regulatory powers assumed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier in 2015.

In February, FCC claimed new oversight powers over the operation of the nation’s Internet networks, using Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to justify new rules for regulating how Internet service providers (ISPs) may manage and operate the infrastructure they built.

Snowball Effect  

Tom Struble, a legal fellow at TechFreedom, a nonpartisan public policy think tank focusing on digital issues, says FCC’s February power grab, officially known as the Open Internet Order, makes it easier for bureaucrats to claim even more power over consumers in the future.

“By using Title II as the basis for net neutrality rules, the FCC has opened the door to much broader regulation of the Internet than ever before,” Struble said. “ISPs will be hampered in their efforts to develop new and innovative service offerings, and edge services may feel the wrath of the FCC in other areas, like privacy and data security.”

‘Regulatory Certainty’

Struble says Congress, not unelected bureaucrats, should make the decisions on issues significantly affecting consumers.

“The greatest driver for investment in broadband and the Internet ecosystem is regulatory certainty, and only Congress can provide that, since regulation at the FCC may change dramatically from one administration to another,” Struble said. “Congress needs to take Title II off the table permanently.”

‘Illegal, Unwarranted, and Unnecessary’

Scott Cleland, a former Deputy U.S. Coordinator for Communications and Information Policy under President George H.W. Bush, says Congress should pass laws to return the Internet to the free-market principles on which it was founded.

“For 20 years … Internet policy was one of Internet independence from government control,” Cleland said. “It ended this February when the FCC, in a very partisan vote, asserted Title II telephone regulation authority over the Internet, subjecting it to tight FCC control.

“Congress should do everything in its constitutional power to reverse this illegal, unwarranted, and unnecessary power grab,” Cleland said.

Rudy Takala ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.

Internet Info:

Robert E. Litan and Hal J. Singer, “Unintended Consequences of Net Neutrality Regulation,” Journal on Telecommunications & High Technology Law: