Just like when the mediums of radio and television were new technologies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is power-hungry once again to regulate a new medium. And it is moving full-steam ahead, despite a recent court ruling limiting the ability of the Commission to regulate.
At question is the FCC’s goal to ensure so-called “network neutrality.” The Commission has been concerned with actions by internet service providers (ISPs) to limit or block the ability of users to access certain services or content over their networks. It had proposed implementing new rules restricting the ability of ISPs to do so. The only problem: According to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the FCC has no statutory basis to justify such regulation.
But, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is still pursuing the Commission’s larger broadband internet plan. The likely results of such added meddling in the free market by a government regulatory agency will be less competition and more government control. This has always been the case with the FCC, whose statutory authority under the Communications Act has been to regulate in the name of the nebulous “public interest” — however that may be defined by regulators at any given time.
Thankfully, at least one commissioner is skeptical of such regulation. Commissioner Robert McDowell, also a critic of the now defunct broadcast fairness doctrine, released a statement praising the appeals court’s decision.
The history of such communications regulation under the auspices of upholding the “public interest” has been intrusive and abusive. But the regulators are persistent. They’ve found something new to control.
* Note: I am currently writing my graduate thesis on issues related to free speech, the FCC, the fairness doctrine and other broadcast regulation in the name of the “public interest.”Published in