Feeling the heat at the FCC on net neutrality

Pressure is mounting at the FCC over the slow pace of change in the Obama regulatory agenda.

Chairman Julius Genachowski came in with big plans to impose so-called net neutrality rules on the wild west of the internet.  A Wall Street Journal column this week, however, notes the disappointment and backbiting on the left over the lack of progress at the FCC, on this and other issues, with the headline “FCC Chief Concedes Slow Pace.”

In the events leading up to the current impasse, a court ruling last April said the FCC “lacks the authority to force Internet service providers to keep their networks open to all forms of content,” forcing the FCC to come up with an alternative route to net neutrality. 

The FCC then hatched a plan to regulate the internet under common carrier rules designed decades ago for regulating phone traffic.  The Journal account quotes a Verizon executive on the FCC’s plan:

Mr. Genachowski's proposals for regulating Internet lines "will cause uncertainty in the marketplace, create disincentives for investment and make one of the true success stories of the American economy less competitive."

With their net neutrality plan meeting great resistance from the communications companies that have invested billions in building their networks, as well as concerns over the further intrusion of government on the internet, the FCC this month issued a release seeking further comment on the issue, with the comment period pushing any resolution well beyond the November elections.

Further muddying the waters, House Democrats are expected to introduce a net neutrality bill this week, leading Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.) to comment

“Speaker Pelosi and President Obama have taken measures to control the healthcare industry, the auto industry, the banking industry and the insurance industry," Culberson told The Hill on Monday. “It comes as no surprise that they attempt to control commercial activity over the Internet before they lose control of Congress.”

Amid the consternation on all sides, the perceived foot-dragging by Genachowski and company has lead to a chorus of complaints:

"We don't have a chairman making bad decisions. We just have a chairman that doesn't make decisions," said Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative, who was a member of the Obama campaign's tech advisory group…

"To the extent that any FCC chairman has any political capital, they have it in their first year," said Derek Turner, research director at Free Press, a public interest group. "Genachowski spent his first year asking a lot of questions and not taking much meaningful action. It's paralysis by analysis." [emphasis added]

With his own side now turning on him, the Chairman, for his part, sounds like he is feeling the heat:

"I'm impatient, too…" said Mr. Genachowski in an interview. "There's a lot to do. There's a lot we've gotten done, but there's a lot to do."

The Obama chariot of hope and change is rapidly turning into a pumpkin, and an overripe pumpkin at that.