Washington Breaks the InternetPosted: February 5, 2015
Musicians and Kardashians may claim they can break the Internet by posting alluring photographs, but they have nothing on Tom Wheeler
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission unveiled on Wednesday a plan to demolish a policy that for two decades has allowed the Internet to become the jewel of world-wide communication and commerce. His new “Open Internet” plan represents a monumental shift from open markets in favor of government control. It is a grave threat to American innovation.
“Mr. Wheeler is seeking to overturn Bill Clinton’s policy of allowing the Internet to grow as a lightly regulated “information service” because Mr. Wheeler does not want light regulation.”
In a piece for Wired magazine, Mr. Wheeler announced that this week he will circulate to his fellow commissioners a plan to enact what President Obama demanded in November: century-old telephone regulation for today’s broadband communications companies.
“In an acrobatic feat of Orwellian logic, Mr. Wheeler even implies that telephone-style regulation must come to the Net to prevent problems that existed in the old telephone network, such as the difficulty faced by entrepreneurs trying to deploy new communications devices.”
“This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles,” wrote Mr. Wheeler, and he’s right. The game plan is to apply to competitive digital networks rules originally written for monopoly railroads in the 1800s. But don’t worry, this “common carrier” regulatory structure was modernized for telephones as recently as the summer of 1934 when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Communications Act.
“Mr. Wheeler may promise forbearance, but watch out, because that’s not how government works. The nature of bureaucracies is to grab power and expand it. Once the FCC assumes the authority to set “rates, terms and conditions” across the online economy, expect a political land rush.”
The Wheeler cover story is that such antiquated rules are necessary to provide “net neutrality,” the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally and not blocked from reaching consumers—in other words, to allow the Internet to function pretty much as it does now.
But even if net neutrality were threatened, the Federal Trade Commission already has authority to punish companies that discriminate against consumers, and Congressional Republicans have already expressed their willingness to enact a law preventing the specific abuses Mr. Wheeler claims he wants to prevent. In any case, even the old telephone regs don’t treat all customers equally—they allow heavy-volume customers to get a better deal than mom and pop.
- Editorial: FCC chairman picks risky path (denverpost.com)
- FCC launches its own probe into AT&T’s throttling practices (gigaom.com)
- Famous one-liners from previous State of the Union addresses (cbsnews.com)
- Net neutrality rules could lead to legal quagmire (usatoday.com)
- President Obama to visit Idaho for first time since 2008 (washingtontimes.com)
- Why the ex-cable lobbyist running the FCC turned against his old clients (arstechnica.com)
- Not Good: FCC Chairman Proposes Utility-Like Regulation for Broadband Internet (economicpolicyjournal.com)
- FCC Chair: Broadband Internet, Including Mobile Broadband, Will Be Reclassified As Title II Utility To Preserve Neutral Internet (androidpolice.com)