Tuesday, February 23, 2010

FCC: taking title to the Internet part II

In an earlier post about the FCC's plans to regulate internet service providers, I got carried away (like Flo in the Progressive commercials) and let my frustrations about the explosive growth of power of the regulatory agencies of the executive branch of our federal government carry me off message.  The message is government regulation of internet service is a bad idea.

From Business Week (H/T Simon Owens at Bloggasm.com):
AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. told U.S. officials to reject calls to move oversight of Internet service into the same “burdensome” regulatory category as telephones.

“Far-reaching and destructive consequences” would follow if the Federal Communications Commission treats Internet service as it has treated telephone service, which is more heavily regulated, the companies said in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Also signing the letter were Qwest Communications International Inc. and trade associations for the cable and phone industries.

The FCC is considering moving high-speed Internet service, or broadband, from a lightly regulated category, “reversing almost 10 years of deregulation,” Andrew Lipman, a Washington- based attorney for Bingham McCutchen LLP, said in an interview today. “That’s a fairly significant U-turn.”

Reclassification could be a way to solidify agency authority, which in January was questioned by judges hearing Comcast Corp.’s challenge to an FCC ruling, Lipman said.
Randolph J. May has written an insightful opinion piece at CBS News comparing the FCC plan to Nancy Pelosi's "public option:"
The "public option" for health care - which the American public came to see as symptomatic of government overreach -- certainly helped sink the most grandiose visions of ObamaCare. It's possible that proposals for a "public option" of sorts for new Internet regulation could sink the Federal Communications Commission's efforts to adopt new broadband policies.

To be sure, the two public options, one for health care and one for Internet regulation, are dissimilar. After all, they arise in two very different contexts. But they have this in common: both are grounded in an almost unshakeable faith that government should play a central role in regulating certain services provided by the private sector.

With respect to communications policy, this misplaced faith in the superiority of government control over marketplace competition causes some to advance proposals that will be viewed by many as radical overreaching. And, as with health care reform, the very act of overreaching may well sidetrack adoption of more moderate proposals.

Here's what I mean by the Internet public option - and why it should be rejected.

Recently, organizations like Public Knowledge and Free Press have begun to mount a fierce campaign to have the FCC reverse a decision first made in 2002, which it has since reaffirmed several times, not to regulate Internet providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC determined that Title II regulation was inconsistent with its view that "broadband services should exist in a minimal regulatory environment that promotes investment and innovation in a competitive market."

Although the burdensome requirements that accompany Title II regulation are manifold, two key elements are at its core. The FCC is required to regulate the rates of common carriers to ensure they are "reasonable" and to enforce a non-discrimination prohibition. These core elements are the hallmark of traditional public utility regulation; hence what I call the public option. (emphasis added)
In a similar effort to insure "reasonable" and "non-discriminatory" mortgages, the government created the housing bubble that led to the current recession.  What could possibly go wrong if the government takes over the internet?

It should come as no surprise that Public Knowledge and Free Press are left-wing advocacy groups funded by the Open Society Institute (aka George Soros) and other liberal groups.

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