On Dec. 21, the FCC will gamble on a rather questionable regulatory approach to ensuring that the Internet remains an alleged paradise, built with sand in the night by tireless faeries, gratis. As of right now, it’s FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski up against two skeptical Democrats who don’t trust his approach will pass legal muster, and also don’t think his approach goes far enough, but could be persuaded otherwise on both counts; and two Republicans who are hands-down 100-per-cent opposed to introducing regulation into a sphere of American life where heretoyore none existed.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell is one of those Republicans. Today he writes in the Wall Street Journal:
For years, proponents of so-called “net neutrality” have been calling for strong regulation of broadband “on-ramps” to the Internet, like those provided by your local cable or phone companies. Rules are needed, the argument goes, to ensure that the Internet remains open and free, and to discourage broadband providers from thwarting consumer demand. That sounds good if you say it fast.
Nothing is broken and needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net-neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.
Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being “data driven” in its pursuit of mandates—i.e., listening to the needs of the market.
Not incidental or unimportant: McDowell was a likely no vote on net neutrality back in 2009, when Pres. Obama re-appointed him to a second term on the FCC!