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May 8, 2010
Net Neutrality War Heats Up
In a renewed drive to regulate the Internet, the FCC has announced scaled-back ambitions for Net Neutrality, but only after an appeals court ruling that the FCC had "overstepped its authority."
To evade the court ruling, the FCC aims to impose Net Neutrality - equal treatment for all web traffic, compelled through government regulation - by "regulating broadband lines under decades-old rules designed for traditional phone networks."
FCC Chairman and Harvard Law classmate of Barack Obama, Julius Genachowski, considers broadband to be a "hybrid" between heavily regulated utilities and unregulated information services:
"The chairman will seek to restore the status quo as it existed prior to the court decision," a senior F.C.C. official said, "to fulfill the previously stated agenda ..."The legal basis for the move is not clear, and the major broadband providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, who have invested billions building digital networks, are expected to vigorously oppose the move, both in Congress and in the courts.
A May 5th letter from FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) outlines the history of Internet regulation since its privatization in 1996, noting a 2005 Supreme Court decision upholding the FCC's historical regulatory treatment:
The Commission explained that it was unwise to subject enhanced service to common carrier regulation given the "fast-moving competitive market." [emphasis added]If it was unwise to regulate broadband five years ago, is it not the same in this era of rapidly evolving technology? Apparently not, for the enlightened ones in DC.
Mr. Waxman this week provided cover for the FCC power-grab, saying that he is "prepared to consider legislation to provide it." While the term "Net Neutrality" is somewhat opaque and misleading, rest assured that if Mr. Waxman is on the case he is not promoting limited government and free markets.
The FCC foray into new regulation is not without added drama. Last fall Obama senior technology advisor Susan Crawford was shown the side door after the White House had to back away from her more radical Net Neutrality ideas.
Now comes news that Colin Crowell, a senior FCC advisor and a long-time advocate of Internet regulation, is resigning. Mr. Crowell is described in The American Spectator as
one of the most vocal advocates inside the FCC for regulating the Internet and imposing "Net Neutrality," which is to the Internet what Socialism is to private property.The Spectator further notes that rumors that the FCC may decide not to regulate broadband would if true "have left Crowell's many friends on the extreme left very angry."
The Wall Street Journal quotes an FCC statement that Mr. Genachowski intends to set "meaningful boundaries against regulatory overreach." Oh really? As one analyst notes, "you could have regulators involved in every facet of providing Internet over time."
Scaled back or not, Net Neutrality is the government foot in the Internet door, with ominous implications for future private investment as well as for the future vitality of the new media.
And so the Obama agenda rolls out, aided and abetted by the old-line, far-left, Democratic committee chairmen like Mr. Waxman. November can not come soon enough.