Reason Writers Around Town: Peter Suderman on Why It's Time to Pull the Plug on the FCC


In the Washington Times, Associate Editor Peter Suderman takes on the Federal Communications Commission:

As exercises in bureaucratic hairsplitting go, it is tough to beat the sheer audacity of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's recent declaration, "I've been clear repeatedly that we're not going to regulate the Internet." In reality, between its recently released National Broadband Plan and proposed Net neutrality guidelines, that's exactly what the agency is planning to do.

The FCC doesn't have clear legal authority to regulate the Internet—in court filings, it has relied on the dubious concept of "ancillary jurisdiction," so it's not surprising that Mr. Genachowski doesn't want to be seen as the No. 1 Net Nanny. And it is telling that not even the head of the FCC wants to court the public perception that Washington is sending bureaucrats to meddle in the nation's communication networks. Indeed, Mr. Genachowski has inadvertently raised the issue of his agency's fundamental value, or lack thereof. Step back, and the real question isn't whether the agency has the authority to regulate the Internet—it's why the FCC has authority to regulate anything.

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: Sharif Don't Like It, Part II

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  1. Good Morning Reason!

    1. Good Morning Groovus Maximus!

      1. Hi Suki!

  2. Isn’t it time to change the channel on the FCC?

  3. why cant I see the VP say the word “fuck” on free TV news?

    1. That’s a good point. The dirt poor who cannot afford cable or satellite (a surprisingly small number, apparently) don’t get to hear such words on TV. Why are they being discriminated against?

  4. Suki, do you need ransom $?

    1. A Ninja rescued me 🙂

      1. Good, I’ll go shopping instead but a ransom exchange would have made my day.

        1. Good Morning rctl!

          1. GM,GM.

  5. I’m the 3rd person to think Peter Suderman must think pretty highly of Peter Suderman.

  6. Serious question: Should the role of the FCC, in the context of limited goverment (since the agency will not be abolished, good luck Suderman), be strictly to enforce the property rights of station owners, communication network owners, and end users as opposed to the having it’s fingers in every aspect of communication commerce and life?

    My big concern is, with the passage of HCR, and the big push to digitize private medical records, that besides the DHHS, CMH, and the VA, would federal law enforcemnt be privy to those sans court order?

    1. “Should the…FCC…enforce the property rights of station owners, communication network owners, and end users…”

      Ambiguous — define which property rights you are referring to.

      1. Rights such as broadcast content, the “Fairness Doctrine” (equal time), station owners being limited to how many stations they can buy and operate. Taking stations away from a network and essentially handing them over to “under represented” markets with Fed money…essentially keeping FCC from distorting the market by dictating winners and losers.

        1. So the question is not so much one of the enforcement of property rights, but of non-enforcement with respect to FCC policies which result in their nullification and/or re-assignment. Not that I consider these to be rights — property or otherwise — but I get your gist.

          By definition, what the FCC does is to protect so-called ‘rights of society’. Once we enter that realm, it’s a free-for-all; one can argue for this or that, but there is no concrete basis. So, while I understand and agree about a real need for limiting its power, I think that is always destined to be nothing more than a game of democratic tug-of-war; the only principled argument available is for its outright elimination. So long as it exists, referring to the airwaves as a market, let alone a free one, is simply nonsense — the FCC essentially claims to be the de facto owner of the medium, and as such, it picks winners and losers long before you ever get to anything like a fairness doctrine.

  7. FCC is itself a “fleeting expletive”.

  8. Why didn’t Biden get fined for his verbal wardrobe malfunction?

  9. would federal law enforcemnt be privy to those sans court order?

    They already are. Any law enforcement agency can get their mitts on medical records with an “administrative request” or a subpoena (which is not necessarily a court order.

    Some law enforcement agencies have more or less automatic access to medical records if they are investigating “fraud and abuse” by providers.

  10. True on the “fraud and abuse” a la CMH. Also the DEA, if they deem I am prescribing “Too many scheduled drugs”.

    Haven’t had a problem with admin requests, but they idea that with advent of E-charting, the idea of getting notice after a chart has already been downloaded doesn’t exactly thrill me.

  11. I think the FCC does have a role in regulating use of a limited resource (the airwaves) in the same way that the BLM managed public lands.

    Since the airwave span state lines easily I think it’s reasonable that the feds have an agency to manage the use of this resource, but it should stick the spectrum itself, and not the content.

    Beyond this, I feel they hold little value.

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