James Shott / March 3, 2015

Is There Anything on Earth the Government Doesn’t Want to Control?

The EPA is determined to control everything that has anything to do with air, ground and water. The DOJ wants to put legal but “unpopular” types of businesses out of business. The feds tell schools what they can sell to the public at bake sales and at athletic events. And now the five unelected members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have decided the government should control the greatest and most creative invention since the wheel: the Internet.

“President Obama has pushed for the reclassification, which he said is needed to ensure a fair and open Internet,” writes Susan Ferrechio in the Washington Examiner. “But critics say it will stifle innovation and increase fees and taxes by imposing on the industry a 1934 government regulation meant for managing large utilities, such as the old telephone companies.”

“The closer we get to the FCC rubber-stamping President Obama’s Internet grab, the more disturbing it becomes,” said House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., prior to the FCC’s decision. Consumers, innovators, and job creators all stand to lose from this misguided approach.“

Some background, from Wikipedia: "The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link several billion devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), the infrastructure to support email, and peer-to-peer networks for file sharing and telephony.”

The Internet began gaining wide usage in the mid-1990s, and since that time has provided users with resources and connections that only until recently was even imagined. It has survived very well without the control freaks at the federal leviathan sticking their noses in.

Even though the FCC did vote to take control of the Internet, the vote was not unanimous. With a Democrat in the White House, the FCC now consists of three Democrat members and two Republicans, and both Republicans voted against the takeover.

One of them, Ajit Pai, made three important points in his dissenting statement. “For twenty years, there’s been a bipartisan consensus in favor of a free and open Internet … [and] the results speak for themselves. Dating back to the Clinton Administration, every FCC Chairman – Republican and Democrat – has let the Internet grow free from utility-style regulation.

"But today, the FCC abandons those policies. It reclassifies broadband Internet access service as a Title II telecommunications service. It seizes unilateral authority to regulate Internet conduct, to direct where Internet service providers (ISPs) make their investments, and to determine what service plans will be available to the American public.

"This is … a radical departure from the bipartisan, market-oriented policies that have served us so well for the last two decades.”

His second point centered on the idea that the disagreement between Verizon and Netflix exemplified problems that required government intervention to protect consumers. But a free Internet operating in the free market solved this problem without need of government action, and well before this foolish decision was made.

“So the FCC is abandoning a 20-year-old, bipartisan framework for keeping the Internet free and open in favor of Great Depression-era legislation designed to regulate Ma Bell,” Commissioner Pai said, referring to the Communications Act of 1934 that authorized the FCC. “But at least we’re getting something in return, right? Wrong. The Internet is not broken. There is no problem for the government to solve.”

“Literally nothing in this Order will promote competition among ISPs,” he continued, outlining the third point. “To the contrary, reclassifying broadband will drive competitors out of business. Monopoly rules designed for the monopoly era will inevitably move us in the direction of a monopoly. If you liked the Ma Bell monopoly in the 20th century, you’ll love Pa Broadband in the 21st.

"One avenue for higher bills is the new taxes and fees that will be applied to broadband. If you look at your phone bill, you’ll see a ‘Universal Service Fee,’ or something like it. These fees – what most Americans would call taxes – are paid by Americans on their telephone service.

"Consumers haven’t had to pay these taxes on their broadband bills because broadband has never before been a Title II service. But now it is. And so the Order explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes. Indeed, it repeatedly states that it is only deferring a decision on new broadband taxes – not prohibiting them,” Mr. Pai concluded.

Will this lead to the FCC playing politics with the Internet like the IRS does with applicants for nonprofit status? Why wouldn’t it?

As happens quite frequently, rules with the force of law are being created not by the only branch of government authorized to create laws, but by the branch of government authorized only to enforce the laws properly created.

James Shott is a columnist for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and publishes his columns on several Websites, including his own, Observations.

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