When President Barack Obama requested this past spring that government agencies conduct a cost analysis on burdensome regulations, no one really expected anything to come of it. After all, he’s a master at saying one thing and doing … nothing. Thus a group of GOP legislators are rightly calling on the president to make good on his request by directing the Federal Communications Commission to analyze the real costs of enforcing the network neutrality regulations it adopted last December.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and 10 Republican senators sent a letter to the FCC this week asking the agency to apply Obama’s challenge to its ill-advised net neutrality rules. “Each executive and independent agency should propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that its benefits justify the cost,” reads the letter, which concludes the FCC “would have made a more informed decision” had it performed such diligence.
It’s not as if there weren’t numerous independent studies and reports on the subject prior to the FCC’s December meeting. But the ideology of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and his two fellow Democrat commissioners, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, trumped empirical research that concluded such rules would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, stifle industry investment, and cost millions of additional taxpayer dollars to implement and enforce regulations the majority of Americans have expressed they don’t want or need.
Instead, Genachowski, Copps, and Clyburn fancied the shiny net neutrality bauble, and the Obama administration stands at the ready like a besotted wealthy suitor wielding the nation’s credit card to make it happen.
By requiring Internet providers to treat all transmissions identically, the new rules would raise prices for all users in order to compensate for a distinct minority who strain bandwidth capacity with massive downloads. It also would degrade the service for consumers, because there would be no way to stop high-volume Internet users from hogging much more than their fair share of bandwidth and leaving less for everybody else.
Any doubts about these realities were dispelled by last week’s events in the Netherlands. The country’s largest Internet provider was forced to raise rates significantly for its millions of customers after net neutrality regulations were adopted. A small number of Dutch data hogs are enjoying their rapacity at the expense of the majority of Internet users who just want to update their Facebook status and send emails instead of downloading entire movies or engaging in hours-long Skype video conversations.
This scenario resembles the fellow who abandons his wife and children to chase after a long-legged gold-digger. It’s good for the bimbo and fulfills the narcissism of the midlife crisis sufferer who writes the checks, but the children and former spouse are forced to pay for his extravagance.
Just as society disapproves of men who spend their kids’ college funds on fancy cars, fur coats, and jewelry for bimbos, the U.S. Appeals Court ruled in April 2010 that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to regulate the Internet unless Congress first passes such rules for the agency to enforce.
With Genachowski and his FCC posse ignoring that ruling and the president standing idly by while the commission ignores his cost-analysis directive, it has fallen to Congress to stand up for fiscal responsibility, privately owned enterprises, consumer choice, and free markets. With Congress looking for budget-cutting ideas, maybe cutting off some of the flow to the FCC would get the stubborn commissioners’ attention. Nothing else has succeeded thus far.