Hearing Witnesses Warn FCC Net Neutrality Initiative Doomed to Failure

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-02-25 Print this article Print
FCC Neutrality Plan

"Abandoning the Verizon court's 'roadmap' in favor of a public utility regime, as the chairman has not hesitated to acknowledge, introduces considerable legal uncertainty that, at best, will mean another two years or more without resolution to the Open Internet debate. Proposed legislation would quickly and cleanly resolve the FCC's persistent jurisdictional problems and enact precisely the rules called for in President Obama's plan," said Larry Downes, project director for the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy.

Downes said that the current actions by the White House and the FCC are placing Silicon Valley and other technology centers into an unnecessary period of uncertainty.

"This week, in the name of protecting the Open Internet and its core principles, the FCC is on the brink of following the president's instructions" and transforming the Internet into a public utility, he said. This plan "seems more designed to serve short-term political goals than the long-term health of the most valuable technology platform invented since the Industrial Revolution," Downes said in his testimony.

The observations of these witnesses and others highlight the strange transformation of political views on how much regulation should be imposed on the Internet. There was a time when the Republican minority in Congress opposed all efforts at net neutrality, always claiming instead that the free market was the only force that should govern how open the resource of the Internet should be. It was the Democrats that advocated a light touch, not interfering more than necessary.

Now, with the legislation that's making its way through the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate, it appears that the light touch to net neutrality and an open Internet is being advocated by the Republicans. It's the Democrats who want to impose a heavier hand.

Unfortunately, the result of these conflicting approaches is that net neutrality could get crushed in the struggle. The FCC, for its part, seems to be making a partisan effort to conform closely to President Obama's call for the Internet to be regulated under Title II of the communications act, a move that will only lock up the FCC's decision in judicial gridlock for years.

The Republicans, meanwhile, are offering legislation that appears to give the Democrats exactly what they want, if only they could stand the idea that it was the Republicans that thought it up.

Unfortunately, the FCC has let partisan politics intrude into what should be a decision based on what's good for the users of the Internet, not on what's going to gratify the White House.

As distasteful as it might be for the Democrats, the Republicans are offering a solution that gives them what they want without it being tied up in the courts for years.

According to comments by ranking Democratic House member Anna Eshoo, the legislation really only needs a little extra work. Maybe it would be better for everyone if some sane heads outside of the FCC take a close look at the situation and make the better potential solution work.


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