Right Hooks

DC Court Bows to Obama's 'Net Regulations

The government is here to help by "ensuring" the right to free speech.

Dan Gilmore · Jun. 15, 2016

On Tuesday, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since Internet providers aren’t the ones flexing First Amendment rights — content creators are — Barack Obama’s net neutrality regulatory scheme is allowed to stand. Last year, the supposedly independent Federal Communications Commission announced that it was going to regulate the Internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information service — exactly as Obama wanted it to. The result is that the Internet is now subject to regulations developed during the age of the rotary phone. For example, services that deal in a lot of data (just think of all the information Netflix uses to send shows to your laptop) can’t pay more to have faster service. Innovation in Internet infrastructure is stifled as monopolies are created, and there’s an opportunity for the feds to tax the service.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, said of the ruling, “It ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections — both on fixed and mobile networks — that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.” But that’s the big-government view. The government is here to help by “ensuring” the right to free speech through mounds of red tape. What could go wrong?

Again, to get to this point, the FCC gave up its independence to take orders from Obama and the court that made this decision ignored legal precedent to solidify the powers the FCC took for itself. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out, Congress made itself clear when it said Americans’ Internet will stay “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled last year when it came to ObamaCare that federal agencies can’t simply create regulations that cause significant disruptions politically and economically and expect them to be followed. Congress makes the law. The executive branch enforces the law. This is Civics 101. But this overreach will be checked — if it will be checked — only if the Supreme Court picks up the matter or if Congress wakes up and worries about its loss of say in the governing of America.

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