FCC follies

Pity the poor regulator.

Technologies keep changing, darn it. They start to look like old-fashioned railroad inspectors with baggy pants and clipboards, trying to chase down jetliners on airport taxiways.

Chairman Julius Genachowski and the other two Democratic members of the Federal Communications Commission want to block high-speed Internet service providers from offering prioritized service to those willing to pay more for that capacity. Which would be sort of like barring the airlines from providing bigger seats to those who'll pay more, or barring the post office from promising faster delivery to those willing to pay for "Priority" or "Express."

They've even come up with a handy name for this new leveling scheme: "net neutrality."

The FCC currently treats broadband as a lightly regulated "information service," and had maintained that framework gave it ample authority to impose "net neutrality" rules. But that scheme hit a little roadblock when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last month rejected that FCC argument.

So now Mr. Genachowski and his 3-2 Democratic Commission majority are trying an end run, redefining broadband as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally -- thus sidestepping the pesky intent of Congress, as well as the pesky courts.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio calls the plan "a government takeover of the Internet."

You'd think voters might get tired of such arrogance, and simply boot Mr. Genachowski and his Democratic cohorts at the next election. Except, of course, that FCC commissioners never come up for re-election.

The FCC was established back when the AM dial seemed to offer room for only a limited number of radio stations in each market, and concerns arose that this might allow someone to gain a monopoly over the sources of news available in American homes. Today, in the era of satellites, cable television and the Internet, such a presumption is laughable.

The FCC is a gang of 1930s, baggy-pants regulators in search of something to regulate. Time to shut them down.