On Tuesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) introduced a draft internet regulation bill, which addresses web networks and delineates where exactly the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s authority over the internet ends and begins. On Wednesday, ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) declined to sign on to it.
At which point Waxman pulled it, citing the lack of bipartisan support. But he was not totally dismissive of a legislative solution coming to pass in the very near future saying that he may resurrect the bill later. Immediately after that, however, he followed that statement with this one:
“If our efforts to find bipartisan consensus fail, the FCC should move forward under Title II. The bottom line is that we must protect the open internet. If Congress can’t act, the FCC must.”
That’s an incredible concession: Waxman effectively stated that he would readily yield his proper authority – as a legislator and Chairman of the relevant Committee – to the FCC and its proposed internet power grab should a congressional solution not be rapidly reached.
An FCC autocratic move that could take place as soon as November 30th – its next monthly meeting after the current comment period on the issue ends.
That would be more than unfortunate – it would be devastating to the future of the internet. An FCC reclassification would set up years of lawsuits and litigation, and put to a screeching halt the hundreds of billions of dollars of investment necessary to maintain and grow our internet infrastructure.
The web redistributionists have now gotten this close in Congress – there is no reason they cannot close the deal. It is in fact imperative that they do.
Congress is precisely where we have all along said the internet regulation conversation should be. In other words, NOT in the unilateral reclassifying hands of the FCC.
From the very beginning of this whole mess, we have repeatedly pointed out the obvious – that the FCC has only the authority that Congress writes for it in law. And Congress has thus far written the FCC exactly zero authority over the internet.
The FCC tacitly admitted to this when it voted 3-2 in June to begin the internet reclassification process, so as to allow it to (over-)regulate the internet the way it (over-)regulates landline telephones – and impose the drastic Media Marxist version of so-called net neutrality.
And as we have repeatedly observed, we (and the FCC) were by no means alone in this knowledge. And we do not stand alone in opposition to the FCC’s dictatorial Web usurpation.
There are the 299 members of Congress – a large bipartisan majority. There are the more than 150 organizations, state legislators and bloggers. There are the seventeen minority groups – that are almost always in Democrat lockstep.
There are the many additional normally Democrat paragons, including several large unions: AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America (CWA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); some racial grievance groups: League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Minority Media and Telecom Council (MMTC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Urban League; and an anti-free market environmentalist group: the Sierra Club.
And there is the unanimous D.C. Circuit Court – led by a Democrat Bill Clinton-appointee – that joined the chorus, ruling in April in the Comcast-BitTorrent case that the FCC doesn’t have the juice.
All of these men, women, organizations and entities are calling for the FCC to cut it out – and let Congress do what Congress is supposed to do.
And now Congress must do what Congress is supposed to do.
There is also the ancillary schadenfreude to be had in knowing that the Media Marxists at Free Press have all been having conniption fits since word of a possible bill first graced their ears.
One must wonder – if you have pushed so far towards the Stalinist that uber-Leftist Henry Waxman is working to short-circuit your absurd position, just how far from the pack have you strayed?
This is a tectonic plate-shifting event for Free Press. “Net neutrality” has been their preeminent issue for the past four years, and they have now been officially cut out of the loop on it – by Henry Waxman.
Waxman’s bill is the latest signal to be sent to Chairman Julius Genachowski and his FCC that they should stand down on their proposed internet regulatory seizure.
Will it be the one that finally draws the Chairman’s attention? One can only hope.
Seton Motley is the President of Less Government, and Editor in Chief of StopNetRegulation.org, a project of the Center for Individual Freedom.