Internet

Congressional Representatives to FCC: Third Way? No Way!

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Internet's top cop warned to stop?

When FCC Chairman and wannabe Internet cop Julius Genachowski announced his latest Net neutrality scheme, he attempted to frame it as a "third way" compromise between onerous, utility-style regulation of broadband providers and a wholesale abandonment of Net neutrality. The idea was to change the way broadband providers are classified but decline (at least for now) to enforce some of the tougher regulations associated with the new classification. But Genachowski's attempt at a compromise doesn't seem to have worked too well. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are warning the agency that they aren't pleased—and implying strongly that the proposed classification change could be illegal. From CNET's Declan McCullagh:

A bipartisan group of politicians on Monday told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in no uncertain terms, to abandon his plans to impose controversial new rules on broadband providers until the U.S. Congress changes the law.

Seventy-four House Democrats sent Genachowski, an Obama appointee and fellow Democrat, a letter saying his ideas will "jeopardize jobs" and "should not be done without additional direction from Congress."

A separate letter from 37 Senate Republicans, also sent Monday, was more pointed. It accused Genachowski of pushing "heavy-handed 19th century regulations" that are "inconceivable" as well as illegal.

As with so much of what happens in Washington, this is as much a power struggle as a policy debate. The FCC wants to move forward with new regulations, but these legislators want the agency to ask for Congressional permission first. Which probably explains why the letters were sent just as a number of Congressional committee chairmen hinted that they might be ready to update the Communications Act (which provides the FCC with regulatory authority over information and telecom services).

Given that most Democrats support Net neutrality, one might think an updated Act would be a win for neutrality advocates. But McCullagh argues that updating the Act may make the regulatory timeline unworkable:

The last time there was a major rewrite of telecommunications laws, it took something like five years for Congress' internal mechanisms to spit out the Telecommunications Act of 1996. A push for national cable franchising legislation went on for years but died without a vote.

Which leaves pro-Net neutrality groups in an uncomfortable quandary. If they can't prod the FCC to grease the rails and slide some kind of regulation through soon, even if the legal underpinnings are anything but firm, Congress may not act until the iPhone 8G hits the streets in 2015. And by then, today's high water mark of Democratic political power may be just a memory.

More on Net neutrality and Title I/Title II here and here.

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  1. Incontheevable!

  2. A bipartisan group of politicians on Monday told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in no uncertain terms, to abandon his plans to impose controversial new rules on broadband providers until the U.S. Congress changes the law.

    If you go ahead wtih your plant, we’re going to throw a fit! You’ll see!

  3. “should not be done without additional direction from Congress.”

    Ok, phew, I feel much better.

  4. I still don’t get why libertarains are against Net Neutrality – since pretty much everybody agrees that protecting freedom of speech is an appropriate function of government why wouldn’t you want the government to make sure the internet remains available for everybody to express themselves?

    1. Starve the troll.

      1. Roger that.

      2. Starve who? I only see Danny DeVito.

        1. Pipe down, PorkKnuckle.

          1. Just a non-troll-feeding reminder:

            The FCC wants to control content. This is a good way to get their tentacles on the internet.

    2. Here’s what I don’t understand: what is the actual, existing problem that net neutrality is supposed to solve? I mean, I heard about Comcast throttling the bandwidth of some heavy users, but every other problem seems to be theoretical: “What if this happens…?” Can someone document some existing abuses?

      1. I don’t believe there have been any. That’s what makes this naked power grab so incredibly shameless.

      2. what is the actual, existing problem that net neutrality is supposed to solve

        It is meant to undo the classification change that the Bush FCC passed and to re-establish the common carrier rules that allowed the Internet to become what it is today.

        Why people who talk about this issue refuse to be intellectually honest and discuss the fact that up until around 2005 or so, when the FCC change the classification of broadband providers to what it is today — and what the current FCC wants to do is go back to those rules (actually they want to go back to those rules-LITE. They want the old rules with exceptions) is beyond me.

        It’s almost as if the people covering this have an agenda of sorts.

    3. since pretty much everybody agrees that protecting freedom of speech is an appropriate function of government why wouldn’t you want the government to make sure the internet remains available for everybody to express themselves?

      It’s giving the FCC the same power over the Internet that it has over broadcast TV and radio. (Comissioner Copps has been forthright about this, also advocating using the power of licensing and merger approval to regular digital satellite TV for explicit content.) Do you think that the FCC “protects freedom of speech” in broadcast TV and radio?

      The government “protects” freedom of speech by “making no law respecting” it.

      1. While the “airwaves” are becoming less and less relevant, the FCC did in fact protect freedom of speech on the radio and television for many decades by making sure the limited airwaves were not dominated by a a single entity or point of view…

        1. This spoof is so good, I actually thought is was Dan T. for a second. Good one, ha.

        2. Yes, it would be a shame if broadcast TV had as few choices and as much uniformity as cable and satellite TV.

        3. decades by making sure the limited airwaves were not dominated by a a single entity or point of view…

          So the government had to destroy speech to save it.

          1. A non-troll-feeding reminder:

            The Fairness Doctrine was bullshit, and should remain as dead as Jim Crow.

      2. And yet some Douche was on the ED show last night (Bill Press, I believe) saying that the govenment should regulate ownership based of the politics of station owners. This would correct the current disparity that favors conservatives. The government needs to step in and ensure that there are as many Progressive-owned stations are as Conservative-owned stations. Because (get this) without such an arrangement, the People will only get propaganda, not truth.

        I am not kidding. This fucker said this. And he has a book about it too:

        Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America’s Airwaves

        http://www.amazon.com/Toxic-Ta…..amp;sr=1-1

        1. The lack of libertarian and fascist owned stations is appalling.

        2. What kills me is that in addition to controlling the universities and the editorial pages of the major papers, liberals control all the big TV networks plus PBS and NPR. Then along comes Rush Limbaugh and another handful of conservative talkers and Fox News, and suddenly it’s “OMG we need ideological balance!!!”

    4. Re: DanT,

      I still don’t get why libertarains are against Net Neutrality – since pretty much everybody agrees that protecting freedom of speech is an appropriate function of government why wouldn’t you want the government to make sure the internet remains available for everybody to express themselves?

      You’re equivocating – net neutrality has ZERO, nothing, zilch, nada, nihil, to do with freedom of speech.

  5. This is all quite simple. Convergence is going to make the Internet largely replace everything else–radio, TV, etc. While that doesn’t mean no more broadcasts, it does imply that the FCC’s jurisdiction and justification is going to continue to shrink. Since “we can’t have that”, a new justification must be found.

    It amazes me that with all of the access that even relatively poor people have to television, the Internet, cellphones, and so on that an argument like this carries any water.

    1. Are going to continue to shrink. Damned editor!

  6. Here’s what I don’t understand: what is the actual, existing problem that net neutrality is supposed to solve?

    I second that.

    1. It is supposed to prevent a problem from happening, not to solve one.

      1. If only I could go back in time and kill your mother before she shat you out of her asscunt.

        1. Your power grows with each passing minute, my young apprentice.

          1. I do look to you for improvement in my prose.

          2. But doesn’t this mean he’ll eventually turn to the dark side?

            1. Who ever said I was one of the good guys?

              1. When did I define “dark side” to mean good or bad?

                1. Is “asscunt” supposed to be unhyphenated?

      2. So now government should dedicate efforts to preventing problems that don’t exist when it doesn’t even have sufficient resources to solve problems that do?

        Of course, even if the answer is yes for a reason I can’t pre-imagine, it’s not like I would trust that the government’s strictly-theoretical cure would be better than the strictly-theoretical problem.

      3. It is supposed to prevent a problem from happening, not to solve one.

        Ah. I get it. An imaginary problem.

        1. Right, because we should only look for what’s happening currently and not try to prevent bad things from happening in the future.

          There’s a sensible outlook. Always reacting to the last threat, never trying to be proactive and prevent bad things.

          You should work for Homeland Security.

          Oh by the way, hypothetical/potential and imaginary don’t mean the same thing.

      4. It is supposed to prevent a problem from happening, not to solve one.

        Like cash for clunkers did.

      5. Re: DanT,

        It is supposed to prevent a problem from happening, not to solve one.

        Throwing virgins to the Volcano God is supposed to prevent the Volcano God from ever growing angry.

        Same shit.

      6. It is supposed to prevent a problem from happening, not to solve one.

        Exactly.

        The problem is that in theory with the existing rules, broadband providers could start playing games and restricting content if content providers don’t pony up money to keep their content flowing.

        Someone like Comcast — who has gotten into the content providing business (even more so if they take over NBC Universal) could easily decide they don’t want to allow youtube content to pass through their pipes.

        They shouldn’t be given the opportunity to do that regardless of whether they are currently doing it.

        Or are we only allowed to close barn doors after all the horses have escaped?

        Regulation is also supposed to prevent bad behavior rather than simply punishing it after the fact or trying to correct it in the future

        1. Also, Comcast might stop offering ESPN and Disney Channel on cable, too, since they’re part of the NBC organization now. We need a law specifying which channels they have to carry. Now, before it’s too late!

        2. They shouldn’t be given the opportunity to do that regardless of whether they are currently doing it.

          Why not? There’s no law stopping Comcast from interrupting every channel with a two-second commercial every minute, even though there’s no law against it. And of they did that, and public outcry was somehow insufficient to stop them, then pass a law against it. That is how most laws work, you know: they deal with existing problems.

          Besides, how can you write a law to stop unknown, potential future abuses? Without inadvertently squashing innovation you don’t mean to, or just giving a bureaucracy a bunch of extra power “just in case”?

  7. Hooray for the separation of power-grabbers.

  8. The internet has been one of the biggest successes in the last 100 years. That is because of, not in spite,that it has been almost devoid of governmental interference. Not to mention its tax-haven protection of online commerce.

    1. The internet has been one of the biggest successes in the last 100 years. That is because of, not in spite,that it has been almost devoid of governmental interference. Not to mention its tax-haven protection of online commerce.

      The current FCC classification has only been in place since about 2005 or so. Prior to that it was classified in the manner the FCC wants to re-classify it as.

      But don’t let facts get in the way of your musings.

      1. But the Net Neutrality ideologues weren’t in charge of the FCC until now.

      2. And in the five years since then, the number of cases of abuses that net neutrality would solve is… zero?

  9. In 300 years, the Leechmen might start raiding our underwater bio-sheds looking for razor-crystals. Time for Congress to get crackin’.

    1. Personally, I preemptively blame the banks for the Leechmen.

      *throws brick*

  10. I think massive reductions in spending, drastic limits on the scope of government power, and hefty cuts to all forms of taxes are needed to prevent a lot of problems from happening and to solve some existing ones.

    1. That’s because you’re a racist.

      1. Only when it comes to Greeks breaking gifts. Or something like that.

  11. It’s all Greek to me.

    1. And it’s all Greek to me!

  12. I agree with Pro Libertate (5.25.10 @ 2:08PM). The FCC anticipates their irrelevance and is laying the foundation for not only their survival but also the growth of their power in the age of the InterTubes.

    If the FCC ever had a reason for being, that reason all but disappeared in recent years, and will likely evaporate altogether in just a few more. It’s time that give serious consideration to the idea of ending the FCC and replacing it with nothing.

    1. “The FCC anticipates their irrelevance and is laying the foundation for not only their survival but also the growth of their power”

      Damned singular collective nouns.

      “The FCC anticipates ITS irrelevance and is laying the foundation for not only ITS survival but also the growth of ITS power…”

      If I’m going to err grammatically, I’ll do it by personifying a corporation, rather than through pronoun mismatch, thank you very much.

      1. preview

  13. The Obama administration and its friends at the Federal Communications Commission thought they could impose sweeping new Internet regulations without anybody other than far-left, Netroots activists like the fringe group Free Press noticing. They failed.

    Americans for Prosperity and many free-market allies have blown the whistle and are now educating the vast majority of Americans — who are happy with the unregulated Internet as it is — about the threat posed by regulation.

    AFP’s mission is to maximize economic freedom, make government smaller and less intrusive, and make America more prosperous. Free Press’s mission? Let’s start with its founder, Robert McChesney explaining their push for net neutrality:

    “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

    And McChesney’s broader agenda? His ultimate endgame? Again, his own words:

    “In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”

    Yet Free Press claims that their support for sweeping new federal regulation of the Internet is about encouraging investment and free market competition. Somehow, it rings hollow when Free Press puts out a statement saying:

    “The Federal Communications Commission is simply pursuing a path that will ensure that the free market works for the American public, something that prior FCCs failed to do.”

    So the Internet hasn’t been working for the American public? Really?

    How can making the free market “work” mean having sweeping public-utility style regulation, a return to the “golden days” of dial-up Internet or even the old national Ma Bell monopoly? How can competition policy be such a serious error, when, in the words of Free Press ally Public Knowledge’s Communications Director Art Brodsky, the Internet “has been the greatest creator of wealth we have ever seen”?

    These regulations would be so crippling to investment that Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett referred to them as the “nuclear option” – not exactly a boon to the free market. Then again, perhaps an organization founded by a Marxist believes the only way to “ensure that the free market works” is to shut it down and replace it with a central economic plan.

    Simply exposing Free Press’s ideological roots provokes them to call their critics McCarthyites. They can’t stand having their own words quoted – just like they claimed their former board member, Van Jones, was “smeared” by having video and audio clips of his own statements played on TV. They want people to ignore that McChesney is still on their board of directors and they still promote his policy ideas.

    They can’t defend what McChesney has said so Free Press President Josh Silver attacks critics for quoting his own founder:

    “McCarthy-esque allegations against our organization, painting our efforts to protect consumers and promote critical journalism as part of a “Marxist” government takeover of the Internet.

    “Because nothing Free Press actually says or does remotely reflects their rhetoric, they recycle out-of-context quotes from one of our co-founders. Or they draw up elaborate conspiracy theories. It is the province of liars and scoundrels.”

    But it’s not a lie. Free Press is the leading advocate for undoing the past 12 years of history — since the FCC, under Clinton-appointed Chairman William Kennard, determined that Internet access is an unregulated information service. Reclassification is a government regulatory takeover, good or bad. (And do click through on the quotes from McChesney above to judge for yourself whether they are out of context.)

    That’s what’s at stake with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s Free Press-inspired proposal to reverse the past 12 years of regulatory policy by reclassifying the Internet as a regulated public utility. That’s a Washington takeover of the Internet. (And, as I’ve explained, Genachowski’s so-called “third way” is still nuclear.)

    It’s not, as Free Press’s Megan Tady has asserted, “a crackpot conspiracy” to be concerned that economic regulation could lead to content regulation. It is easy to envision a scenario in which the Internet, transformed into a piece of public utility infrastructure, tightly regulated, and subsidized with billions of taxpayer dollars, would be subject to content restrictions.

    Perhaps it will lead to right-wing groups like the Parents Television Council (a Free Press ally in their “Save the Internet” project) decrying indecent material on a public network that taxpayers support and demanding it be blocked.

    Perhaps it will lead to left-wing social-justice motivated content regulation. Recent comments from FCC Commissioner Michael Copps suggest this is where regulation could lead:

    “Can you tell me that minority and women’s voices on the Internet are getting through to major audiences-really being heard-like the big corporate sites? Should we just take it for granted that the small ‘d’ democratic potential of new information technologies will somehow be magically realized without questions being raised about how they are designed and managed?”

    That’s really the central question. Do we think the Internet should be designed and managed by central economic planners to make sure certain voices are heard? By Washington bureaucrats? Or do we want to continue the remarkably successful experiment with a free-market, privately owned, competitive Internet?

    To Free Press, private ownership is a problem. Their solution is onerous federal regulation-and, ultimately, “rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.” So when they talk about freedom, they mean freedom from “corporate control,” provided by government.

    The vast majority of the American people understand freedom differently and would rather take their chances with private competition then government control. (See, for example, the recent Rasmussen poll that found Americans oppose FCC regulating the Internet 53 % to 27%.)

    I would be glad to debate Free Press on the merits of the FCC regulating the Internet. If they are really convinced that the arguments for keeping the Internet unregulated are weak they should welcome the challenge.

  14. I thought the above article was pretty relevant, I think it was from the WSJ.

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