On the occasion last week of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s passage of “net neutrality” regulations, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Commission, announced that it was “the proudest day of my public policy life.” It’s not known whether that statement is a reflection of how little Wheeler feels he’s accomplished in life, or an embarrassing attempt to take credit for something that was forced on him.
What we do know is that the regulation that passed with his vote – and those of the other two Democrats on the Commission – was not the much sounder one Wheeler initially proposed, but a radical version that carries within it opportunities for mischief and much worse than that.
So what happened to change Wheeler’s mind? The most obvious explanation is the interjection of President Obama who, a few weeks before the vote, publicly stated his view that the FCC should subject Internet service providers (ISPs) to utility-like regulation. This is the explanation for Wheeler’s switch held by most insiders, and there’s no doubt that these FCC commissioners, their notional “independence” notwithstanding, move like earlier ones to the music of their parties and the presidents who appoint them. >> Read More