America, your government now regulates the Internet

FCC Votes 3-2 to Regulate Internet via Net Neutrality

Jonathon M. Seidl
The Blaze

The FCC has voted 3-2 along political lines to extend the government’s reach and regulate the internet via net neutrality.

The vote to institute net neutrality rules marks the first time the government has stepped into the world of internet regulation. Proponent’s of the net neutrality rules say that the move allows the government to stop companies from controlling too much of the internet, while opponents view it as a scary example of government control and an impediment of private business.

“As we stand here now, the freedom and openness of the Internet are unprotected… . That will change once we vote to approve this strong and balanced order,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at a commission meeting on Tuesday, according to The Hill.

The paper says the new rules “create new transparency standards for wired and wireless carriers,“ while also preventing ”wired carriers from blocking lawful applications and services.” For example, “wireless carriers are prohibited from blocking websites as well as applications that compete with their services.”

The rules have drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, with Republicans arguing that it marks too much government oversight, and Democrats saying that rules don’t go far enough. Instead, Democrat commissioners wanted stronger rules for wireless companies, but said they would settle for today’s new rules.

But the move enraged the commission’s Republican members.

“The FCC is not Congress. We cannot make laws,” said Republican Commission Robert McDowell, describing Tuesday as “one of the darkest days in FCC history.” He also suggested that new rules may be in for a court battle.

“The era of Internet regulatory arbitrage has dawned,” he said.

Fellow Republican Commissioner Meredith Baker accused the chairman of smarmy political and manipulative tactics to pass the order, saying she only received her a copy of the proposal in the late hours of last night.

“I think we can all do better and let’s do so in the New Year,” she said.

This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.

Update: Video at, Franken Urges FCC to Change ‘Net Neutrality’ Plan, in a speech delivered on Saturday.

Update 2: Reason Magazine, FCC Votes Itself Judge Dredd of the Internet
(Video at the link)

In a speech delivered on January 19, 2010, Julius Genachowski, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, declared that transparency “is particularly important for consumer protection and empowerment.” He praised “access to information” as “essential to properly functioning markets” and stated that “policies around information disclosure…can be enormously helpful in ensuring that markets are working.”

Does Genachowski believe it’s less important for the federal government? In theory, no: Last summer, Genachowski promised that under his watch, the Commission would be “fair,” “open,” and “transparent.”

But earlier today, the FCC, led by Genachowski, voted 3-2 to adopt a new set of rules governing private management of the Internet’s core infrastructure. Thanks to a decision by Genachowski not to make the order detailing the rules public, no one outside the FCC has seen the actual order that was passed. Even those on the inside were given little time to wade through its reported complexities: Meredith Baker, who along with Genachowski is one of the FCC’s five commissioners, said in her remarks that she and her staff only received the most recent draft—the one voted on today—around 11:30 p.m. last night.

Genachowski’s remarks portrayed the rules as a moderate middle ground between the extremes. It was a decision driven not by ideology but the desire to “protect basic Internet values.” If it’s a middle ground, it’s a legally dubious one. Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that the FCC had no Congressionally granted authority to regulate network management. Congress hasn’t updated the agency’s authority over the Net since then, but the FCC is now saying that, well, it has the authority anyway. Genachowski’s team has come up with a different legal justification, and they’re betting that this time around they can convince a judge to buy it.

Still, Genachowski’s portrayal of the order may be half right: The FCC’s move on net neutrality is not really about ideology. It’s about authority…

Update 3: Congressmen respond to FCC’s net neutrality plan

In the wake of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) passing of a net neutrality plan, some Congressmen are already planning how to fight back. For some, that means the 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA).

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden and Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry have pledged to use that law to fight the FCC’s new regulations.

The CRA gives Congress the authority to review federal agency regulations, and repeal them if necessary with a joint resolution…

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