FCC commissioners demand authority over campaign financing, free Internet
posted at 10:55 am on December 6, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Here’s your FCC at work, ensuring that freedom of speech and property rights are defended on America’s airwaves. Just kidding! The Blaze and Naked Emperor News has two clips of FCC commissioners demanding unprecedented authority over prior restraint of speech and seizure of private property in order to satisfy their ideas of — you guessed it — “diversity.” First we have Michael Copps, who last week demanded not only the authority to enforce campaign-finance reform (usually the purview of the FEC), but also the authority to order music stations to broadcast news shows, and for networks to give up 25% of prime-time air to locally-produced shows:
In September, Mignon Clyburn has decided that free health care works so well that the government should mandate free Internet as well:
There is little doubt that the impulse towards charity can sometimes, as in the anecdote offered by Clyburn, tilt toward the patronizing, but that’s hardly more insulting than seizing the property of others for redistribution by the government. No one has a “civil right” to free access to someone else’s property or product. The Internet isn’t a monopoly; it’s an interconnected series of private networks with multiple levels of competitive offerings for access to them. The FCC has no jurisdiction to redistribute private property.
Besides which, it doesn’t work, as Clyburn herself notes. Broadcast licenses are indeed handed out by the government thanks to a limited bandwidth allocation for commercial purposes, and the government decides how to distribute those through the FCC. Minorities only own 3.6% of the commercial broadcast licenses in the US (at least according to Copps in the first clip) despite decades of intervention by the FCC on their behalf. Why should we expect any different outcome in Internet access if the FCC takes over distribution? Why should we trust government to seize private property for redistribution when it can’t even do that effectively for property it already controls?
Furthermore, in many communities, free Internet already exists in public libraries and schools. For that matter, if one has a portable computer of one sort or another, many private retailers (Starbucks and Panera come immediately to mind) provide free Internet access to their customers. That may not be as convenient as having it at home, but then again, it is free — and hardly a necessity for life to exist in any case.
The FCC and its commissioners should focus on doing their present jobs better rather than demanding a broad expansion of their powers and the authority to interfere with the expression of free speech. In fact, we’d do best by finding commissioners who understand that role better than these two current incumbents.