|“Net Neutrality” Regulation: Obama’s Imperious FCC Shifts to Plan B|
By Timothy H. Lee
Wednesday, May 12 2010
Last month, a federal court of appeals unanimously rejected the brazen campaign by Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the Internet via so-called “Net Neutrality.”
Meanwhile, over in the court of public opinion, the American electorate opposes Obama’s scheme to federalize the Web by a 2-to-1 margin.
But just as we witnessed with healthcare, such realities are irrelevant to the Obama Administration. Neither an embarrassing judicial rebuke from the Court of Appeals nor lopsided public opposition will interrupt its kamikaze mission to impose as much of its big-government agenda as it can prior to November’s election reckoning.
So instead of respecting the unequivocal Court of Appeals decision or public disposition, Obama’s FCC disdainfully retreated to Plan B. In an attempt to circumvent the Court of Appeals ruling, the FCC has unveiled its attempt to “reclassify” the Internet under New Deal-era telephone laws written in the 1930s.
In other words, if you don’t possess the straightforward authority to regulate the Internet, simply reclassify it as a telephone.
The FCC had launched its formal effort to impose “Net Neutrality” last October, making good on Obama’s campaign promise to liberal netroots supporters. For those still unfamiliar with the term, “Net Neutrality” is the far left’s Orwellian moniker for its effort to impose a bureaucratic straightjacket on the heretofore free Internet, dictating a one-size-fits-all network management and pricing scheme. By way of illustration, Internet service providers would be prohibited from prioritizing critical Internet traffic such as emergency medical data over such less-critical traffic as spam, pornography, recreational video downloads or television programs. They would also be prohibited from applying differential rates to bandwidth hogs who currently enjoy free rider status.
Here’s why this matters: As Internet use continues to skyrocket and bandwidth becomes increasingly scarce, network providers must be allowed to innovate to meet capacity demands. Internet traffic is expected to increase 50% per year through 2015, and wireless traffic is expected to rise 131% through 2013 alone. In order to accommodate that increase, service providers must be allowed to experiment with such concepts as packet prioritization and data differentiation, as with the emergency medical data example above. The important point is that freedom to invest, innovate and experiment will be critical going into the future.
“Net Neutrality,” however, would prevent that freedom to innovate. Instead, we would face the bleak alternative of slower Internet traffic and degraded service for everyone.
Fortunately for American consumers and unfortunately for the Obama Administration, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia interrupted their scheme. Last month, the Court ruled without dissent that the FCC doesn’t possess the legal authority to regulate Internet service.
In the aftermath of that ruling, Obama’s FCC and far-left activists scrambled to concoct a plan to save “Net Neutrality.” Their not-so-clever solution? Simply shoehorn Internet service into regulations drafted in the 1930s for old-fashioned landline telephones.
That retrograde idea contradicts over a decade of bipartisan consensus spanning both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Bill Kennard, who served as FCC Chairman under Bill Clinton, highlighted the foolishness of the “reclassification” idea now pushed by Obama’s FCC:
“Classifying Internet access as telecommunication services could have significant consequences for the global development of the Internet. We recognize the unique qualities of the Internet, and do not presume that legacy regulatory frameworks are appropriately applied to it.”
Since its inception, the Internet has transformed our society and world economy as dramatically as any technology in human history. But with its announcement this month that it will seek to reclassify the Internet under 80-year-old laws, the FCC threatens to suffocate Internet investment and innovation by the private entrepreneurs that have brought us this far this quickly.
Ultimately, foreign nations offering more hospitable regulatory environments will thrive, while the U.S. will face new governmental headwinds.
“Net Neutrality” is nothing short of an effort to place yet another sector of our economy under federal control. But don’t take our word for it. Consider the words of Robert McChesney, founder of Free Press and the leading activist voice supporting “Net Neutrality:”
“What we want to have in the U.S., and in every society, is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility. We want an Internet where you don’t have to have a password and that you don’t pay a penny to use. It is your right to use the Internet.”
Working together, we will stop this latest scheme to impose “Net Neutrality,” whether through legislative, judicial or administrative avenues. Congressman Cliff Stearns (R – Florida) has introduced the “Internet Investment, Innovation and Competition Preservation Act,” and judicial challenges to the FCC’s shenanigans are inevitable.
In the interim, we are treated once again to the tawdry hyperpartisan spectacle of the “by whatever means necessary” Obama Administration.
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