Commentary

Obama's FCC’s Internet Takeover Would Reduce Internet to a Public Utility

Phil Kerpen
By Phil Kerpen | June 15, 2016 | 2:15 PM EDT

The Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve new "net neutrality" rules in February 2015, prompting a court challenge from Internet providers. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Yesterday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld President Obama’s so-called “net neutrality” regulations in a 2-1 decision. These are the rules that re-classified the Internet as a “public utility” under a Depression-era law, and leave us on the hook for a massive new tax increase and countless new regulations that are already having a dramatic negative impact on investment.

The judges on the D.C. Circuit wrote the decision simply pretending the regulations came from an expert agency entitled to deference based on its expertise. They essentially decided to play along and ignore the widely reported fact that the order actually came from White House political hacks and a decision based entirely on politics to pressure the FCC to ignore its own experts to instead score a political win for the hard-left after the 2014 election landslide.

I’ll be honest, this outcome is disappointing. But the fight will, and must, continue on. Obama’s FCC’s Internet Takeover is too devastating to Internet freedom— it must be stopped.

As I wrote the day the FCC adopted the order, Marxist radical Robert McChesney, who started the “net neutrality” movement, again deserves congratulations.  But he cannot be allowed to achieve his ultimate goal to “get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

We don’t know yet whether the Supreme Court will take the case, and frankly we can’t count on them getting it right anyway.  So we need to:

  1. Get Congress to block all funding for Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet.
  2. Elect a president who will give us an FCC chair who will bring back the free-market, hands-off approach that allowed the Internet to boom for two decades.

In his compelling dissent today, Judge Williams noted the tragic irony that is likely to occur if the regulations stand:

“The ultimate irony of the Commission’s unreasoned patchwork is that, refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shunts broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies. Because that track provides little economic space for new firms seeking market entry or relatively small firms seeking expansion through innovations in business models or in technology, the Commission’s decision has a decent chance of bringing about the conditions under which some (but by no means all) of its actions could be grounded—the prevalence of incurable monopoly.”

In other words, by regulating the Internet as if it were a public utility, the Obama FCC is likely to actually reduce it to one.

On a positive note, the House of Representatives recently passed language through the Appropriations Committee which would defund the FCC regulations.

And despite yesterday’s setback, I remain optimistic that we will prevail in this fight. 

Phil Kerpen is head of American Commitment and a leading free-market policy analyst and advocate in Washington. Kerpen was the principal policy and legislative strategist at Americans for Prosperity for over five years.  He previously worked at the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.  Kerpen is also a nationally syndicated columnist, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book "Democracy Denied."