December 21 2010
The FCC voted in favor of adopting net neutrality rules, today. Although the decision was expected, it's still bad news. Robert McDowell, one of the FCC's Republican commissioners who objected to this regulatory overreach, writes in the Wall Street Journal:
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. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net-neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.
Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being "data driven" in its pursuit of mandates-i.e., listening to the needs of the market.
Jim Harper at the Cato Institute's blog adds that federal regulation over the internet presents a threat to free speech:
This is also a good time to remember that the FCC is our national censor. The U.S. government's censorious reaction to l'affaire WikiLeaks should serve as counsel to people who would subject Internet service providers to even greater federal regulation. Regulated ISPs will be more compliant with government speech controls.
It's a point worth emphasizing: Regulated ISPs will be more compliant with government speech controls.
In its attempt to apply old rules to regulate a relatively new communications technology, the FCC is walking on an unknown path to impose rules without grasping their consequences. The FCC states that it acts in the best interests of consumers by imposing net neutrality rules on the industry. There is, however to date, no substantial evidence that internet providers are in fact unreasonably discriminating against potential rivals to the detriment of consumers. In its attempt to preemptively control a potential future harm, the FCC is more likely to cause unnecessary barriers to innovation, job creation, and economic growth, because it lacks the knowledge necessary to avoid such far-reaching unintended consequences.
Moreover, the FCC's attempt to bring the Internet within its regulatory authority defies a previous court case and assertions by Congress that broadband was not a telecommunications service (an area the FCC controls), but that the Internet was properly defined as a communications service and that its regulation was therefore outside of the FCC's reach.
Congress or the courts ought to step in to stop the FCC from regulating the internet.