FCC Shouldn't Vote on a Secret Plan

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By Peter Podkopaev

Last week, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, internally released the Obama administration’s 332-page plan to turn the Internet into a public utility. These rules, which will govern our Internet usage, are shrouded in a cloud of mystery – not permitted to be released to the public until after the rules are passed! And now, even one of the Democratic commissioners, Mignon Clyburn, is voicing her concern saying that the plan goes too far.

The American people deserve better from those who make our laws—which is sadly ironic considering the fact that the FCC is a regulatory agency and Congress is our lawmaking institution. Unfortunately, that has not stopped the Administration from conveniently confusing the two.  We must demand that these costly regulations be made public before the vote so the American people can see for themselves just how draconian and harmful the proposed rule will be if approved.

Reclassification of the Internet as a public utility will add an astounding $11 billion dollars per year in new state and local taxes and fees.  And the individual consumer should also expect to pay higher federal fees, perhaps steeply higher, although the FCC is deferring action on that, for now.

In addition to increased costs for the consumer, government regulation will lead to more government control and involvement. These rules, as Phil Kerpen pointed out, are highly likely to lead to content control.

According to Robert McChesney, founder of Free Press (one of the Obama administration’s strongest allies in this fight), the end goal of Internet regulation is about much more. He has stated that “at the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” 

Yes, you read that correctly. Regulating the Internet has socialists excited: more government control over free enterprise, content regulation, and a lucrative source of tax revenue. All of this will lead to a decrease in private sector competition and innovation within the Internet industry. 

The Internet industry has thrived and been hugely successful under the liberally backed Clinton/Gore light touch approach to regulation currently in place. But now, the Obama administration wants to change that. The American people deserve a choice and must be given the chance to have an honest and informed debate on such an important policy issue before the commission votes.

Passing FCC regulations behind closed doors is an abuse of power that even the president used to oppose.  Then-Senator Barack Obama wrote this to the FCC Chairman back in 2007 when a similar process was being used to determine media ownership rules:

"…reconsider your proposed timeline, put out any specific change to the rules for public comment and review, move to establish an independent panel on minority and small-business media ownership and complete a proceeding on the responsibilities that broadcasters have to the communities in which they operate."

Oh how things change when one’s hands are no longer tied by the need to pursue reelection and truly represent the interests of their constituents or the American people.

Fortunately, our lawmakers have begun to take action against this egregious power grab.  Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, has opened an investigation into the process by which the Obama administration influenced the adoption of these net neutrality rules by Chairman Wheeler.  And, most recently, Chairman Chaffetz has urged FCC Chairman Wheeler to make the rules publicly available before a vote is held.       

The proposed net neutrality rules must be made publicly available so citizens can voice their concerns in a meaningful and democratically productive manner.

Perhaps even more importantly, Congress has the power to stop this government takeover of the Internet. Sign our letter to Congress and tell them to stop the FCC’s power grab.  Together we can act and help to stop an illegal and undemocratic action from destroying the free-market Internet and our liberty.