Welcome to the politics of competing agendas over how the Internet will, or will not be governed in the future. It seems the FCC has scheduled a meeting on Dec 23, 2010, albeit a little odd since it falls right in the middle of Christmas break when most are sensibly enjoying family and friend gatherings. However, TheHill.com is suggesting there could be a possible ulterior motive to such shenanigans. See: (FCC may regulate Internet lines days before Christmas)
It is no secret the FCC has an unfulfilled agenda regarding the regulation of Telecommunications and may possibly see an “end run” to circumvent assured dissent by a newly Republican led Congress. In essence, the commission may try to vote and enact new Net Neutrality rules to govern ISP’s and their handling of traffic over the Internet while legislators are napping from all the holiday cheer. But, this is all speculation, though maybe smart speculation.
Although the FCC has the votes to enact such rules, surely the backlash will be swift and fierce. The problem is that any new rules adopted by the agency will be challenged in court since the issue of authority was established by an Appeals Court earlier this year. However, any new legislation adopted by a majority Republican Congress in response to such a last minute power grab would have to be signed by the President, which most likely would not happen.
New rules governing the Internet will certainly have repercussions on the economy and investment. Companies and Wall Street alike will see this as uncertainty within the markets and will react negatively. Organizational reaction would be to pull back on proposed projects, not knowing how to proceed in that uncertainty. Wall Street will penalize company stocks just on the premise that regulation is a non-business starter. Both investment and employment opportunities will begin to dwindle just as the economy was beginning to show some life. The stakes are high and nothing should be enacted to compromise the beginning of a new year with an upswing in investment and confidence.
There have been some good suggestions on how to proceed with the Net Neutrality issue and some of those comments should be taken at “face value” by the FCC including those made by respected constituents in the process.
Thomas J. Tauke, Executive Vice President Verizon Public Affairs recent comments:
See full speech at Federal Society’s National Convention in Washington, D.C. on Nov 20, 2010.
“The power of broadband to stimulate economic growth, create new jobs and expand opportunities for all of our citizens comes directly from the dynamic, churning, innovative stew we see in the Internet marketplace. This amazing Internet ecosystem is not only an economic engine for our nation, it also holds great promise for improving the delivery of health-care, revolutionizing our approach to education, and improving our transportation systems and electric grids. It is a platform that will deliver on the American dream and give our children a quality of life better than our own.
That is why we cannot allow regulators to impose limits or outmoded regulatory structures on this dynamic ecosystem. That is why we do need Congress to replace the current statute with one that is in sync with today’s communications technology and marketplace.”
FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, (Republican) commented in a recent Federal Society speech:
See full speech: (Commissioner Robert M. McDowell: Speeches 2010)
“I hope that, before the Commission takes a giant leap into a potentially dark and dangerous regulatory abyss, it would seriously consider an idea that I have suggested for several years now.”
“For those fearful of anti-competitive conduct in the broadband market, in lieu of new rules, the FCC could create a heightened role for itself. It could lead a coordinated effort with similarly inspired partners such as already established, non-governmental, Internet governance groups, the Federal Trade Commission and other antitrust and consumer protection agencies, public interest and consumer groups, trade associations, academics, engineers, economists and others. This new alliance could spotlight allegations of anti-competitive behavior and use already existing consumer protection and antitrust laws to punish bad actors and aid consumers.”
The mandate is clear. The FCC’s role is set by Congress, and congressional consensus indicates that regulation is not the most pragmatic solution to the Net Neutrality issue. Do not undertake an “end run” to circumvent authority which has been not given, nor is established under your jurisdiction.