The Federal Communications Commission previously has adopted so-called “net neutrality” rules, and they have been struck down by the federal courts each time.
Many are expecting the same result with the Obama administration’s move Thursday toward a government takeover of the Internet through the adoption by a 3-2 vote of the FCC of more than 300 pages of rules and regulations.
“This is very likely strike three for the FCC,” wrote Scott Cleland, a policy adviser in telecommunications for the Heartland Institute, shortly after the federal agency’s vote. “Their arbitrarily partisan, Rube Goldberg legal theory teeters on top of a foundation of falsehoods and a wholesale rejection of many years of FCC findings of fact and bipartisan precedents.”
He said the FCCs’ decision “to regulate the Internet like a utility under Title II is the most sweeping FCC decision ever and the mother of all FCC overreaches.”
“The FCC has ignored the legal guidance of the court that twice overturned the FCC before, and is now asserting vastly more unbounded authority over the Internet than the court has twice said the FCC does not have,” he said.
The FCC vote this week was three Democrats for the Web limits and two Republicans against. The rules, which the Democrat chairman refused to release to the public before the vote, still are in the process of federal rule adoption and may not be available for weeks.
But when they are, opponents are expected to challenge them in the courts again.
The critics argue the existing Internet without a heavy government hand has allowed for the creation of many billion-dollar companies with tens of thousands of jobs and enabled people almost anywhere to connect to it.
They see the adoption of “net neutrality” as just another name for vast new restrictions on entrepreneurs and a flood of new taxes. They suggest consumers look at their list of phone bill taxes to get an idea of what it is to come.
The criticism of the FCC action came from a broad range of fields.
Ted Baehr, a legal scholar and chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, said the rules “will destroy innovation, progress and freedom on the Internet.”
He said the claim that the rules are necessary to prevent larger Internet providers from charging high fees isn’t logical, because the new rules themselves are expected to lead to more government taxes and fees.
He said the courts undoubtedly will be asked to intervene, which will cloud the Internet’s future for months to come.
“The best solution,” he said, “is for American citizens to demand that Congress immediately overturn the new regulations.”
He said that if the federal bureaucracy is allowed to control the Internet, “the soft tyranny under which we now live will harden into a real tyranny where liberty will rapidly become a dim memory.”
Matthew Glans, a senior policy analyst at Heartland said Title II reclassification of the Internet “is at its core a naked power grab by the Federal Communications Commission that feared its own irrelevance and was grasping at any means to maintain its power.”
“The Internet is not broken,” he said, “It is a vibrant, continually growing market that has thrived due to the lack of regulations that Title II will now infest upon it.”
He said Title II regulations are “archaic throwbacks which are ill-suited to today’s dynamic Internet and broadband markets.”
“The FCC’s attempts to ‘fix’ the Internet, in the name of net neutrality, will only serve to suppress broadband development. When Internet service providers are barred from properly managing the networks they spent billions of dollars to develop, the profit incentive to build new networks is lost and consumers lose,” he said.
“Take a close look at your land line and cell phone bills, laden with taxes and fees. Your Internet bill is next,” he said.
Added Jim Lakely, also of Heartland: “Say goodbye, America, to the Internet you have always known. The most innovative and vibrant economic sector in human history will now become as responsive to consumer demands as the regulated airlines of the 1970s – and all to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
“Unless this power-grab is overturned by the courts or Congress, the public should long remember this as the day its Internet was replaced by government’s Internet.”
Verizon, one of the companies affected, issued its initial response in Morse code, a reference to the 1930s-era law cited for the decision to put the Internet under Washington’s control.
The company said the FCC’s move is “especially regrettable because it is wholly unnecessary.”
“The FCC had targeted tools available to preserve an open Internet, but instead chose to use this order as an excuse to adopt 300-plus pages of broad and open-ended regulatory arcana that will have unintended negative consequences for consumers and various parts of the Internet ecosystem for years to come.”
House Speaker John Boehner warned an “overzealous” government to keep its distance from the Web.
“Three appointed by President Obama approved a secret plan to put the federal government in control of the Internet,” Boehner said in a statement. “The text of the proposal is being kept hidden from the American people and their elected representatives in Congress, and the FCC’s chairman has so far refused to testify about it.
“This total lack of transparency and accountability does not bode well for the future of a free and open Internet, not to mention the millions of Americans who use it every day,” Boehner said.
There were allegations from minority Republican FCC commissioners Mike O’Rielly and Ajit Pai that Obama pushed the regulations forward.
Legislation already has been promised by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., even as consumers are forecast to be hit “immediately” with higher taxes and costs.
In a commentary at Fox News, David Asman wrote, “Of all the government interventions by the Obama administration, the plan released Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet is the worst.”
He acknowledged Obamacare is “massive and is clogging one-sixth of the economy.”
“But even before Obamacare, government had a huge imprint on the health care industry with Medicaid and Medicare. Also, regulations on pharmaceutical and insurance industries led to their energies being focused as much on pleasing government bureaucracies as curing illnesses,” he said.
“But the Internet is young, fresh, alive and untainted. The FCC’s plan to muddy the pure waters of the Internet pollutes the one free flow of information on the planet. And what hurts as much as witnessing the pollution of the Internet with bureaucratic interference? With the exception of the Republican FCC commissioners, most are being blasé about the whole thing.
“Make no mistake. The greatest tool for freedom of expression to come along in our lifetime is in danger. One cannot have genuine freedom of expression with a government monitor, an overseer, a censor prepared to immediately shut down any ‘threats’ to the state.”
He pointed out the rules will affect not just access and delivery speed for information, but it also gives FCC rule-makers “the power to decide what content on the Internet was ‘just and reasonable.'”
Former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said unless someone steps in, “a federal agency now claims the power to regulate the Internet.”
He said the adoption of the FCC rules on the Internet “represents the largest regulatory power grab in recent history.’
“The FCC’s newly adopted rule takes the most dynamic means of communication and imposes the regulatory structure designed for public utilities,” he said. ‘Federal regulation could also open the door to de facto censorship of ideas perceived as threatening to the political class – ideas like the troops should be brought home, the PATRIOT Act should be repealed, military spending and corporate welfare should be cut, and the Federal Reserve should be audited and ended. ”
John Fund at National Review spotlighted the source of the funding.
“Using money from George Soros and liberal foundations that totaled at least $196 million, radical activists finally succeeded in ramming through ‘net neutrality,’ or the idea that all data should be transmitted equally over the Internet,” he wrote. “The final push involved unprecedented political pressure exerted by the Obama White House on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, head of an ostensibly independent regulatory body.”
He noted Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute called the move “a backward-looking policy that would apply the brakes to the most dynamic sector of America’s economy.”
And CNN reported Comcast already has promised “litigation and years of regulatory uncertainty” because of the move.
Newsweek noted the decision also could be upset by Congress.
“Congress can also attach a rider to the FCC appropriations bill for next year that would cut the funding needed to carry out the rules, or formulate a rider that effectively overturns them,” the report said.
Or a GOP board under a Republican president could simply “undo it all.”
L. Gordon Crovitz at the Wall Street Journal said the so-called “net neutrality” campaign could be called “Obamacare for the Internet,” but that would be “unfair to Obamacare.”
Unless Congress or the courts block the rules, “it will be the end of the Internet as we know it,” Crovitz wrote.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano expects the courts to dash the Obama administration’s plans.
In an interview for WND by Radio America’s Greg Corombos, he said: “People don’t know the danger that is coming. The danger that is coming is a gaggle of bureaucrats here – three Democrats and two Republicans, the Republicans will probably dissent – claiming they have the power to regulate the Internet.”
He said Congress has passed no statute authorizing new government controls on the Internet, and the First Amendment clearly states that neither Congress nor any government agency it created can make a law restricting the freedom of speech.
“They claim that the purpose of their regulation is to prevent the Internet from affording priority and faster service to certain preferred users,” Napolitano explained. “Would we all like to have fast service? Yes. Do we all know how to get fast service? Yes, we do. Might that cost us something? Yes, it might, but at the present time it is free from government regulation.”