FCC meddling

In defiance of the courts, Congress and common sense, the Federal Communications Commission today will decide whether to stick its regulatory nose into the Internet by imposing something called "net neutrality."

Now who could be against that?

Everyone should have equal access to the Internet, right? There should be no discrimination.

An FCC document explains its noble purpose: "The proposed rules will allow for content-neutral, viewpoint-neutral platforms for free expression, thus helping to fulfill the mandate of the First Amendment, which states that government should seek to promote the public's right to have access to diverse and varied social, political, and artistic expression. By creating a better-informed electorate, such practices advance the operation of democratic self-governance."

But one person's discrimination is another's fair pricing of a limited commodity in such a way that those who use the most pay accordingly.

Some Internet service providers wish to retain the right to charge more to users who hog the limited bandwidth. In fact, a federal appeals court in April ruled that Comcast had the right to do just that and the FCC had no authority to stop it.

Yet the FCC forges ahead.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, a GOP appointee, said the rules actually will be counterproductive. "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," Mr. McDowell writes. "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."

Congress has never given the FCC the authority to start making rules for the Internet. Under the Bush administration the FCC largely kept hands off the Internet, but under Mr. Obama it is ramping up.

The FCC was created to prevent chaos in the fledgling radio business by apportioning what was then considered a limited radio spectrum to prevent radio stations from broadcasting on the same frequencies. With the unlimited potential for electronic communications via the Internet, cable, satellites and the airwaves, perhaps it is time to close the FCC and let the free market set the rules and the prices.


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