In a House Energy & Commerce Committee oversight hearing on Tuesday, November 17, all five Federal Communications Commissioners will testify. Net neutrality, the FCC’s broad push to control both the infrastructure and content of tomorrow’s Internet, with full support of America’s left-wing, will be a lead topic.
The debate over net neutrality has been done to death and elements are subject to legal challenge. Yet even Republicans can’t let go of wanting to regulate boogeymen like so-called “throttling” and “discrimination,” so in that respect they have themselves improperly conceded a moral victory and undermined the advance of free, competitive enterprise and consumer welfare in infrastructure wealth.
All this mess and distraction at a time when Congress needs to dismantle the FCC altogether.
I think the best approach for the members is to frame all questions from the right perspective: that FCC’s entire purpose is outdated and its intervention destabilizing, anti-technology, anti-infrastructure—and just plain anti-Internet, and anti-neutral, for that matter.
If I were a member questioning the commissioners, these would be my questions (I’ve posed them before, but they never get answered):
- Explain why compulsory net neutrality is the primary enemy of openness and freedom of speech and what FCC is doing to combat it.
- In what sense does FCC recognize the relevant competitive challenge is not merely the “neutral” transfer of information across today’s existing networks, but the creation of tomorrow’s new networks as such?
- How does FCC intend to clarify to a chaotic policy environment that “neutrality” or “openness” represent some of many mutable features possible on many types of networks that potentially can co-exist, rather than defining characteristics that should be forced on the “Capital-I” Internet in its present incarnation?
- Describe FCC’s recent actions to advance superior alternatives to compulsory net neutrality, such as the prolific cross-industry partnerships that would emerge upon dismantling the regulatory silos that artificially separate infrastructure like electricity, water, rail, sewer, telecommunications and transportation (since such investigations must surely have been conducted by FCC before it would advance universal and compulsory centralized regulation).
- Describe the proliferation of overlapping networks at the dawn of the communications age (see image nearby), and how, if America could achieve such with 1907’s GDP level in areas like communications and electricity, it undermines the case for compulsory net neutrality in a vastly richer nation. We may have had aesthetic problems—but never natural monopoly problems.
- What is FCC doing to reject the false negative connotation of network “discrimination” and to articulate the vital role of “discrimination” in: expanding infrastructure and bandwidth creation; consumer welfare; child safety; homeland security; cybersecurity, information security and privacy; reducing the vulnerability of intellectual property to piracy; and other worthy goals?
- Describe the findings of FCC’s (surely) detailed investigations into alternatives to neutrality, such as reducing franchise, zoning, and environmental barriers to enable infrastructure expansion.
- Describe how FCC pledges to rule out price and entry regulations in the wake of any neutrality mandates, and to never require businesses to seek permission regarding such.
- Describe how net neutrality will lessen future FCC authority, reduce its budget, and reduce lawsuits and unproductive lobbying?
- Describe FCC’s research into how innovation in user ownership of infrastructure (real estate developers, content companies, end users) offsets market power and eases FCC’s calls for neutrality? Innovations in ownership matter just as other forms of innovation do, and reduce market power concerns.
- What is the agency doing to discourage antitrust interference in communications ventures, since major business combinations and ventures foster the grand-scale infrastructure competition (and competitive responses) that would otherwise achieve the alleged ends of neutrality
The only kind of neutrality appropriate on tomorrow’s “splinternet” is agency neutrality. The right kinds of questions show that.