By Seton Motley
John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reported:
The Federal Communications Commission-FCC is issuing a public notice to “improve the FCC’s understanding of business broadband needs,” calling it the “next step” advancing the FCC’s small business broadband agenda. Only one problem with this FCC assertion. They’re not supposed to have a small business broadband agenda. Or a broadband agenda. Or any sort of Internet agenda at all. The FCC only has authority over that which Congress writes laws giving it authority. And, as repeatedly pointed out, Congress has never given the FCC authority over the Internet.
299 members of Congress, from both Parties, more than 150 organizations, state legislators and bloggers, seventeen minority groups, and a unanimous Washington, D.C. Circuit Court – led by a Democrat-appointee, all have said the very same thing. Even Massachusetts Democrat Senator John Kerry was once upon a flip-flop saying it too.
So why is the FCC launching yet another public notice exploration into unauthorized territory?
Part of the problem is Bush’s fault. Not President George W. Bush specifically, but his last FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. He’s the one who in 2008 ruled against Comcast for throttling traffic to and from (often times pirated) file share website BitTorrent.
Again, Martin and the FCC didn’t have the authority to do so, as the D.C. Circuit Court unanimously ruled this April.
Not that the pro-Net Neutrality, pro-government Internet Media Marxists at Free Press, Public Knowledge and Co. weren’t thrilled with the FCC’s overreach. It’s exactly what they’d been trying to get the Commission to do for at that point two plus years. It’s what they are still clamoring for today.
Another part of the problem was the ridiculous and ridiculously named nearly $1 trillion “stimulus” bill passed early last year. A stipulation therein charged the FCC with developing a “national broadband plan.” This again incorrectly connected the FCC and the Internet, further blurring the clearly demarcated legal line between the two.
But again, the “stimulus” bill did not give the FCC any new Internet authority. It reinforced the FCC’s un-authority – and put the supporters dream of a government-run Internet in dire peril.
A third part of the problem is of current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s own making. Undaunted by nearly everyone on the planet asserting the FCC doesn’t have the juice, he went above and beyond the rule of law. In June, he called for the Commission’s 3-2 Party-line vote to begin the rulemaking process to reclassify the Internet under the Title II 1930s landline telephone regulatory regime. This was and is a unilateral attempt to commandeer for the FCC the Internet authority it legally lacks. Which is a blatant end-run around Congress – and a tacit admission they don’t have the juice to regulate the Internet. This vote was a major problem for freedom lovers everywhere – and the opposition accordingly increased its intensity further still. It was at this point that the TEA Partiers joined the chorus – 35 different TEA Party organizations signed on to two letters opposing the FCC’s proposed move.
Thankfully, Chairman Genachowski was listening. Or so it seemed. Less than three months after his vote to begin Internet annexation proceedings, he changed course and declared another public comment period was in order. Which is the equivalent of hitting the Pause button on the reclassification process.
This is where things currently stand – in the midst of this public comment period. So why then is the FCC now deciding to push forward with its “small business broadband agenda?” It appears the Commission is again ignoring Reality and ALL of the people insisting they don’t have any business messing with the Internet – and messing with the Internet anyway.
It seems our sense of calm was mistaken, and short-lived. The price of Internet freedom is eternal vigilance.
Seton Motley is the president of Less Government, an organization dedicated to, well, less government.