Congress, Do YOUR Job on Net Neutrality

Opinion Zone,Seton Motley

The FCC can’t be the “cop on the beat” until Congress writes legislation placing them on duty

Thursday brought us a re-announcement by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and his Democrat cohort Jay Inslee - that they have no intention of revisiting their ever-so-brief flirtation  with reasonable Internet legislation.

They are instead again calling – in Free Press/Public Knowledge Media Marxist fashion - on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to unilaterally usurp authority over the Internet.

From The Hill piece:

The regulatory path they are suggesting would place broadband companies under certain rules that apply to telephones, which the companies see as too onerous.

(Bold ours)

But this isn’t accurate.  As we have previously pointed out, the FCC reclassifying the Internet from Title I to Title II would place broadband companies under ALL the rules that apply to telephones – not just certain ones.

As has been repeatedly proffered, there is no such thing as Title 1.5.

What we are given to assuage us is Chairman Julius Genachowski’s promise to apply only certain Title II rules to the Internet, and to practice forbearance with the rest.

But as we have previously pointed out:

Please forgive us if we do not trust a federal agency to forever restrain itself as to what it takes under its authoritative auspices. Chairman Genachowski may very well mean to limit himself to the narrow “forbearance” parameters he’s described.  But his parameters may not be the next Chairman’s parameters.

Once the FCC’s Internet land grab transpires, ALL of Title II’s regulations are applicable to the Internet – not just the ones Chairman Genachowski now chooses.

Which means ALL of Title II’s regulations could be enforced on the Internet – at any moment, at the whim of any Commission.  This uncertainty would be devastating for the future of the Internet – a regulatory Sword of Damocles that would never have to fall for it to sever most or all private sector investment.

This is precisely why we absolutely must have legislation – not FCC autocratic regulatory fiat.  Legislation will ensure that Chairman Genachowski’s strictures are not just a promise – they are a legal requirement.

Which is why Thursday’s re-pronouncements by Representatives Waxman and Inslee were so incredibly disappointing – and dangerous.

Representative Waxman:

“Then I think the only course of action will be for the FCC to act on its own. As imperfect as that may be, as uncertain as that may be because of possible lawsuits, we just don't have any other recourse.”

The Chairman readily acknowledges the terrible uncertainty the unilateral FCC Internet power grab he calls for will create - the egregious damage to Internet investment and the economy and the years and YEARS of lawsuits that will ensue.  But none of it apparently matters a whit to him.

Mr. Chairman, you do in fact have “other recourse” – you can dedicate more than the two days immediately prior to Congressional adjournment to legislation that gives the FCC Internet authority.

Representative Inslee:

“Now, we have to have FCC movement on this. There is only one cop on the beat with the whistle and the enforcement power.”

Actually, Representative Inslee, right now there is no “cop on the beat” – as your statement tacitly admits.  If the FCC already were, the “movement” on their part for which you call would not be necessary.

It’s your job, Congressmen, to write and pass a bill that names the FCC the officer on duty.  Until then, they are not.

As FCC Chairman Genachowski recognized in this week’s Washington Post interview:

"(W)e have a Communications Act that wasn't written for broadband."

Exactly. Let’s write one that is.


Seton Motley is the President of Less Government and Editor in Chief of, a Center for Individual Freedom production.

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