Quote of the Day:
Musicians and Kardashians may claim they can break the Internet by posting alluring photographs, but they have nothing on Tom Wheeler.
–the Wall Street Journal
Tom Wheeler is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and yesterday he unveiled his plan to bring the internet–currently “the jewel of worldwide communication and commerce”–under the control of Washington—that is under the control of of bureaucrats like Mr. Wheeler, whom President Obama tapped for the FCC in 2013.
The Wall Street Journal characterizes Wheeler’s power grap this way:
In a piece for Wired magazine, Mr. Wheeler announced that this week he will circulate to his fellow commissioners a plan to enact what President Obama demanded in November: century-old telephone regulation for today’s broadband communications companies.
“This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles,” wrote Mr. Wheeler, and he’s right. The game plan is to apply to competitive digital networks rules originally written for monopoly railroads in the 1800s. But don’t worry, this “common carrier” regulatory structure was modernized for telephones as recently as the summer of 1934 when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Communications Act.
I would boil down the mentality behind plan this way: where there is economic liberty, stamp it out. Strangle it with regulations. Make it more expensive and less free and efficient. Use whatever pretext is necessary to accomplish this laudable goal.
Wheeler’s plan is predicated on the idea of net neutrality—or the notion that all internet traffic should be treated equally. But this is already the case. If this were threatened, we would be clamoring for actions to make the internet more open to all. But net neutrality is not threatened. Do you hear complaints from people whose businesses are blocked from internet participation? By the way, to the extend that this happens, the FCC already has the authority to punish companies that engage in internet discrimination. This is rather a federal power grab.
The Wall Street Journal comments:
In an acrobatic feat of Orwellian logic, Mr. Wheeler even implies that telephone-style regulation must come to the Net to prevent problems that existed in the old telephone network, such as the difficulty faced by entrepreneurs trying to deploy new communications devices. But unlike in the days of the old Ma Bell telephone monopoly, new devices and services are multiplying today.
He also points to the growth of the wireless market as evidence that his regulatory plan will work, but the old telephone rules haven’t applied to wireless Internet services that don’t use the old telephone network. Congress has barred the FCC from applying the rules in this way, though Mr. Wheeler now seems determined to get around that prohibition.
Reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service would expose it to rate regulation by the FCC and new Universal Service taxes. Mr. Wheeler says he will avoid placing these and myriad other burdens on digital networks by exercising the commission’s “forbearance” authority.
If Mr. Wheeler succeeds, you are going to be paying more for internet service, while at the same time the flexibility and freedom of the internet comes under the control of Washington. I urge you to read the entire Wall Street Journal piece.