Net Neutrality Vote Shows Congress Must Rein In and Replace the FCC

The separation of powers doctrine demands that Congress not tolerate unelected federal agencies going it alone and making binding law.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on a party line vote, has elected to impose so-called net neutrality regulation via a reclassification of the formerly lightly regulated Internet under Title II of the Communications Act.

Somehow, we suddenly need government force to protect the freedom we’ve known online, with a 332-page set of rules no one outside the agency has seen.

Thursday's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality conceit should trigger the Congress’ replacement of this rogue agency with something that recognize  boundaries, something attuned to the future and reality.

Airwave scarcity and public interest concerns are the causes that long presumably justified telecommunications regulation. But thanks to Thursday's FCC vote, the FCC bureaucracy itself undermined those values with a new regime that will inhibit new infrastructure development and ultimately freedom of speech itself.

Under utility-style micromanagement of the Internet, which is what Title II would allow, the agency will be reenergized as a magnet for political cronyism. The “bad guys” or villainous “gatekeepers” according to net neutrality partisans are the Internet service providers.

But ironically, with net neutrality, there's a much greater chance of there still being an AT&T and Comcast 100 years from now since upstart competing and overlapping infrastructures can scarcely cope with the likes of Title II. (Here’s Comcast’s highly promoted advertisement in support of enforceable net neutrality rules.)

A decade ago in “Communications without Commissions,” CEI recommended getting FCC out of price, entry and services, and decentralizing those functions. States would continue enforcing consumer protection and rights of way laws; the Federal Trade Commission already has authority to strike down the kind of trade restraints that some fear would occur without net neutrality legislation.

The new rule will be held up and very likely blocked in court. With today's unilateral self-interested power grab, the FCC has demonstrated that it is unfit for a role in modern and future communications policy. Congress must aggressively respond.

For further reading:

Here Come FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules,” Forbes, February 3, 2015

The Fallacies of FCC’s Net Neutrality Philosophy,” Forbes, February 22, 2015