Issue in Focus
Feb 27 2015
Earlier this week three of the five unelected, politically appointed bureaucrats who currently sit as commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission voted to grant themselves and their agency the power to regulate the Internet – its millions of American users and trillions of dollars in economic activity – with the same antiquated rules designed for the monopolistic landline telephone industry in the 20th century.
This unprecedented move by the FCC is not only an egregious seizure of regulatory power and a clear violation of the 1996 Communications Act, which wisely prohibits the federal government from regulating broadband Internet services. It also begins in earnest the slow, suffocating, inevitable demise of the Internet as we know it today — the open and expansive universe and source of information, innovation, entertainment, and communication. What was previously bound only by the limits of the our imagination and the frontiers of our technology will now be suffocated by Washington bureaucrats, whose action today will benefit not internet consumers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, but the well-connected special interests that stand to profit from the diminished competition that invariably follows heavy-handed government regulation.
The Internet has been one of the most productive and innovative sectors of our economy, flourishing even as the rest of our economy sputtered, precisely because it has been open and free of exactly this kind of government regulation. Today the FCC made clear that it has no interest in governing within the authority given to it by Congress and that it is eager to discard the objectivity that is expected of an independent, non-partisan agency, in favor of rank partisanship carried out on behalf of our imperious president. This being the case, Congress now has an obligation to reassess the proper role – if any – of the FCC and to determine whether it does more harm than good in a 21st century world.