Tuesday’s decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down the FCC’s so-called “net neutrality” regulations, is a welcome development. As noted by many, these regulations amount to a solution in search of a problem, with the only lasting and real-world effects being the creation of the precedent of governmental oversight of the previously unregulated Internet.
Moreover, and as argued in this space a little over a year ago, there is an international dimension to net neutrality, as the existence of these regulations in the U.S.A. advances the agendas of countries like Russia and China in regulating the Internet through the International Telecommunication Union.
Writing today in the Wall Street Journal, former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell makes a convincing case that, for this reason too, the FCC should abandon any further attempts to promote net neutrality.
For the new FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, this development threatens the very real prospect of becoming his signature activity for the duration of his term. This, because if, at the urging of Internet companies like Google, plus the Obama Administration, Wheeler is importuned to try to resurrect the net neutrality rules, he basically has but two options. One is to appeal the Circuit Court’s decision, and the other is to attempt to reclassify broadband provision as a “telecommunications service,” rather than an “information service,” something that would allow the imposition of net neutrality regs (and who knows what else) by the same authority that the FCC regulates telephone service.
But if Wheeler goes the reclassification route, it will set off congressional fireworks of a sort that will land him and the FCC in a protracted war with telecom companies, and Republican legislators, without any guarantee of success.
Still, one can only imagine the angst among the net neutrality crowd following yesterday’s decision. As reported in The Hill by Kate Tummarello, Internet companies have “pushed net neutrality with an almost religious fervor.” Indeed, one of the most ardent pushers, the ludicrous organization called Free Press, coined the sophomoric slogan: “Net neutrality, the First Amendment of the Internet.”
So it’s not at all clear what the FCC’s next step will be, but suffice to say that the Circuit Court’s decision is going to make for some very interesting times there … and elsewhere.
The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.