Analysis: Two of Five FCC Commissioners don’t think the FCC can regulate Internet

Posted by David Gomez

There is a new development in the war to save the Internet. As expected the two Republicans among the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that they don’t think that the FCC can regulate the Internet.

According to CNSnews.com they (Commissioner Meredith Attwell-Baker and Commissioner Robert McDowell) said that: “the Commission lacks the legal authority to regulate the Internet, predicting that the recent regulations issued by the Commission in December will be struck down in federal court.”
    
Remember the “Net Neutrality” vote in December 2010? The FCC voted 3-2 to pass regulations on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that prohibited them from discriminating against specific websites and other content providers on the Internet. The two Republican-appointed members of the Commission dissented, arguing that the FCC lacked the legal authority to regulate the Internet.
    
With the Republicans taking back some of the legislative power in the government it was expected that they would begin blocking things that the Democrats are fond of. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) are big fans of Net Neutrality.
    
They’re such big fans that they decided the neutrality vote in December didn’t go far enough to protect Internet free speech. They introduced a bill we covered last month that would include wireless in the Net Neutrality rules, and that would generally put more restrictions on the telecommunications giants. It would also do more to stop them from setting up schemes that would give some Internet traffic preference over other traffic.  

We have both political parties butting heads over the Internet, not because the two parties are genuinely concerned with keeping information on the Internet free and open, but because the Republicans will grandstand and oppose any issue that will get them votes from uninformed voters. They’ll take an anti-regulation of big business stance to fight Net Neutrality rules but that doesn’t mean that they actually want to try a free market approach to the Internet industry.

It’s all about power; neocon opposition of Net Neutrality isn’t based around the belief that they think a hands off approach is better. It’s just based on the desire for the GOP to reclaim the spotlight. They don’t have a better solution, and leaving the telecom giants to do as they please would be a very bad idea because it would really make the playing field uneven.

It definitely looks like there will be a coming political battle over what authority the Commission has to regulate the Internet. I think it it’s all really kind of a foolish sideshow because the government doesn’t actually need to grant any of their agencies authority if they want to control information on the Internet.

The government is already seizing the domain names that their well-connected entertainment and big media friends want them to. Yes we’ve seen the government take websites and servers offline recently because of Wikileaks and they also use economically inefficient, garbage laws like copyright and intellectual property to justify putting up a scary warning sticker after they illegitimately seize web domains.

So the fact there are probably two political ideologies about to clash over regulation of the Internet is laughable. The bipartisan system isn’t making the Internet “regular” for anyone. We’ve seen that government already controls it and while the Democrats might actually care about Internet free speech, their bill won’t really make a difference. It might not get a chance to.

We don’t own the Internet, the giant telecoms do. In reality it doesn’t matter what we think should happen. They have the resources to keep buying influence until they get their pay walls and the ability to choose what traffic they allow to travel the fastest.

It’s becoming quite clear that we need to explore creative ways to keep freedom of speech safe over digital communication technologies. Perhaps we could try the Rushkoff method of developing our own alternative Internet in our local communities?