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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's Time to Stop the FCC Internet Czars From Silencing Voices of Internet Dissent

(Update 12:16 CST) Phil Kerpen, Vice President for Policy, Americans For Prosperity, responded to FCC decision. "The FCC has fittingly chosen the darkest day in 372 years to impose potentially devastating regulations on the up-to-now free-market Internet. As the moon was eclipsed earlier today, Congress and the American people [are] eclipsed by this regulatory coup d'état -- orchestrated by the White House -- that will substitute the judgment of three Democrats at the FCC for the legitimate democratic process.

"Congress must make it a top priority to overturn these regulations early in 2011, preferably with a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval that can avoid filibuster and cleanly invalidate the order. Not only is the imposition of government's heavy hand on the economy's most vibrant sector at stake, but so are the basic principles of our democratic republic. If these principles are discarded, the door will be open for a breathtaking series of executive branch power grabs that will leave our society and its constitutional system of government unrecognizable."


(Update 12:16 CST) FCC passes first net neutrality rules - The Federal Communications Commission has passed controversial new rules that prevent Internet providers from playing favorites or blocking access to Web sites that offer rival services. Three of the panel's five members voted in favor of the plan. [The Washington Post Alert]

by Phil Kerpen, The Washington Times: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) apparently is headed for a 3-2 party-line vote to regulate the Internet on Dec. 21, which Commissioner Robert M. McDowell (a stalwart free-market champion who opposes the regulations) points out is the darkest day of the year. In doing so, the FCC is putting the new Congress to a key first test of whether it can muster the will to overturn the Obama administration's backdoor efforts to push a far-left agenda through regulation.

Regulating the Internet under the banner of so-called network neutrality has been a far-left cause celebre for about eight years. The scare story has always been that if government doesn't step in immediately, the phone and cable companies will block access to websites, interfere with traffic and otherwise ruin the Internet. It hasn't happened, and it won't happen, because of competition. It works. A company that messed with its customers would lose them to a competitor. And competition is only increasing as next-generation wireless becomes an increasingly viable option for home broadband Internet.

But the "problem" the left has been trying to solve is something much bigger than the network-management practices of the phone and cable companies. The left is trying to strike a blow against the free-market system itself, as the leading proponent of these regulations, Robert W. McChesney, founder of the lobbying group Free Press, made clear when he said: "You will never, ever, in any circumstance, win any struggle at any time. That being said, we have a long way to go. At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's press secretary, Jen Howard, came to the FCC from Mr. McChesney's Free Press, where she served in the same capacity. The FCC's chief diversity officer, Mark Lloyd, co-authored a Free Press report calling for severe regulation of political talk radio. Mr. McChesney's big-picture strategy looms large at the commission, and the new network-neutrality regulations will move us toward his goal by chilling innovation in network practices and business arrangements by adding unnecessary regulatory interference.

While the FCC is legally an independent agency, under Mr. Genachowski it is a clear extension of the White House. President Obama himself said: "I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality," and the White House has endorsed the FCC's latest power grab. Mr. Genachowski, a Harvard Law School friend of Mr. Obama's and one of his top fundraisers, is one of the most frequent visitors to the White House. Official visitor logs show 78 visits, including at least 11 personal meetings with the president.

These Obama-FCC regulations have been rejected already by Congress and the American people. More than 300 members of Congress signed letters of opposition to FCC Internet regulation, and just 27 have sponsored Rep. Edward J. Markey's bill to impose network-neutrality rules. The bill has not even been introduced in the Senate this Congress. Last Congress, there were just 11 Senate co-sponsors. (Mr. Obama was one of them.) During the recent election, the issue proved an embarrassment for Democrats. A group called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee touted a net-neutrality pledge signed by 95 candidates. All 95 lost.

This sets up a crystal-clear test case of whether the Obama administration can get away with ignoring the election, Congress, the legitimate legislative process and the American people to force a big-government power grab through a regulatory back door.  To pass the test, the House should pass a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, overturning the network-neutrality order. Senate Republicans then can force a Senate vote with a petition of just 30 senators and force a floor vote that would require just 51 votes to pass. The Congressional Review Act would protect the privileged resolution from filibuster. The Senate has 60 legislative days from when the order is issued on Dec. 21 before the privileged status is lost.

Using the Congressional Review Act would require just four Democratic senators to join Republicans in saying the FCC should not be permitted to create for itself vast new regulatory powers. If it succeeds, it will dare Mr. Obama to concede and suffer a political loss as Congress asserts its power, or veto it and take full ownership of completely disregarding this election to keep pushing left with ever more government control. Either way, it would be a huge statement from Congress that regulatory power grabs will not go unnoticed.

Congress must assert itself now before the Obama administration uses regulatory back doors to thwart the electorate and continue shoving the country hard to the left. If the FCC can get away with this, expect the Environmental Protection Agency to be emboldened in its backdoor "cap-and-trade" efforts and the National Labor Relations Board in its backdoor card-check efforts. Expect the vast new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the health care and financial regulation laws to be extremely aggressive.

Stopping the FCC is critical to remind President Obama and all the bureaucrats that Congress is elected by the American people to make the laws in this country.

by Mike Brownfield, Morning Bell, Heritage Foundation: Imagine a future where the Internet is governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, DC, who rule at their own whim, regardless of legislators’ demands or judicial rule. Sadly, that future is now. Today, the Federal Communications Commission is poised to make an unprecedented power grab and assert the authority to regulate the Internet, despite opposition from Congress and a contrary federal court ruling. And while it’s a story that has gone largely unnoticed amid Congress’ big-ticket lame duck decisions, it’s a tale of unchecked government expansion that must be told.

Meet FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a political appointee and Harvard Law classmate of President Barack Obama. Genachowski is leading the FCC’s charge for new powers over the Internet so it can enact a policy known as “net neutrality,” which would allow the commission to regulate how Internet providers like Comcast or Verizon offer their services. If you’re someone who is suspicious of big corporations, that sounds like a great idea. If you’re someone who is fearful of big government, take heed. In reality, the policy will limit consumer choice while granting the federal government unprecedented power over the Internet. As Heritage’s James Gattuso describes:
The net result [of net neutrality]— a slower and more congested Internet, and more frustration for users. Even worse, investment in expanding the Internet will be chilled, as FCC control of network management makes investment less inviting. The amounts at stake aren’t trivial, with tens of billions invested each year in Internet expansion.
There are those, too, who argue that those regulations are not even necessary. FCC commissioner Robert McDowell (who opposes the net neutrality policy) wrote in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal:
Nothing is broken that needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist.
And while the threat of unnecessary and harmful government regulation is worrisome, the way in which the FCC is pursuing its expanded powers is flat out alarming. Federal agencies like the FCC only have power as granted to them by Congress under the law. In this case, the FCC is charging forward full steam ahead, ignoring both Congress and the courts in order to act as it pleases — in effect, making the FCC commissioners self-proclaimed Internet Czars. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Commission has pushed the envelope of its power.

In 2008, the FCC tried to enlarge its authority when it ruled that Comcast violated net neutrality rules. The Commission based its decision on a broad reading of its powers. In April of this year, a federal court smacked down the FCC’s actions, ruling that the Commission had no authority under the law. Then in May, when the FCC flirted with another set of net neutrality rules, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle stepped in and told the FCC to cease and desist until Congress took action.  And now, after a failed attempt by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to muster-up net neutrality legislation in the House, the FCC is back for another bite at the apple and is ready to grant itself the power to rule. Apparently neither courts nor Congress matters to the FCC Internet Czars.

So what can America say about it? Very little. For starters, FCC commissioners are, by their nature, unelected appointees not subject to the democratic process. And over the weekend, just before the FCC decision, visitors to the commission’s website couldn’t even access the 1,900 pages of documents pertaining to the net neutrality ruling. Ironically enough, the very Commission seeking to regulate the Internet saw its website go down due to “scheduled maintenance.” As galling as that is, it’s no more shocking than what Commissioner McDowell says we will witness today:
On this winter solstice, we will witness jaw-dropping interventionist chutzpah as the FCC bypasses branches of our government in the dogged pursuit of needless and harmful regulation. The darkest day of the year may end up marking the beginning of a long winter’s night for Internet freedom.
For the time being, it looks like the FCC will succeed in sinking its regulatory claws into the Internet. Now it’s up to Congress and the courts to put the FCC monster back in its cage and remind the self-proclaimed Internet Czars that the only powers it has are those granted to them by law.

Tags: FCC, Federal Communications Commission, internet, Julius Genachowski, Heritage Foundation, Morning Bell, net neutrality, network neutrality, Phil Kerpen To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 9:29 AM - Post Link

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