On this day in 1876, twenty-nine-year-old Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for inventing the telephone.
Now 140 years later, the Obama Administration continues its counterproductive and legally dubious effort to regulate the Internet as if it were little more than an old-fashioned telephone service of the Bell variety. CFIF and other free-market groups have consistently opposed that effort, and courts have repeatedly rebuked the Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) various schemes to impose it.
Today, The Wall Street Journal’s “Information Age” columnist Gordon Crovitz details how a Senate committee has discovered evidence that the Obama Administration’s behavior in attempting to regulate the Internet as an old-fashioned utility violated the law. In fact, even FCC regulators expressed shock at the degree to which their administrative independence was disregarded:
FCC staffers cited nine areas in which the last-minute change violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires advance public notice of significant regulatory changes. Agency staffers noted ’substantial litigation risk.’ A media aide warned: ’Need more on why we no longer think record is thin in some places.’ These emails are a step-by-step display of the destruction of the independence of a regulatory agency… Mr. Obama’s edict resulted in 400 pages of slapdash regulations the agency’s own chief economist dismissed as an ‘economics-free zone.’”
Here’s why it matters in the real world, in terms of economics and innovation: Crovitz notes that in just one year since Obama’s edict was imposed, “regulatory uncertainty has led to a collapse in investment in broadband.” As CFIF has also detailed, he is correct in that unfortunate observation.
On a more encouraging note, however, Obama’s latest attempt to regulate the Internet in ObamaCare fashion is back before the same appellate court that has twice rebuked it on this issue. As Crovitz wryly observes, “The Senate report should make fascinating reading for the federal appellate judges considering whether to invalidate the regulations… The appeals court has plenty of evidence proving White House meddling with a supposedly independent agency.”
For the good of American consumers and continuing Internet innovation, we certainly hope so.