Green Room

Does FCC Stand for Federal Command and Control?

posted at 6:16 pm on April 6, 2010 by

One of the hallmarks of Obamunism is that “due process” becomes irrelevant: Whatever the great man decides the people “need,” whatever he decrees, shall become law, by hook or by crook (mostly the latter).

Thus, when Congress fails to enact Barack H. Obama’s “cripple and tax” energy bill, despite staggering Democratic majorities in both houses, the president’s Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, issues the very same rules that failed to gain majority support as administrative EPA regulations instead.

If the intricacies of Senate debate prevent ObamaCare from being enacted due to a potential GOP filibuster, the Obamunists in Congress concoct a scheme to misuse the reconciliation process as an end run around standard practice and due process. If even Democratic senators and representatives are reluctant, no problem; a series of bribes, including offers of federal jobs after the congressman is booted out by his irate constituents, will fix the vote right up.

Following the correct process is irrelevant… we need action, action, action! Our ends are so vital they justify any means necessary (or expedient) to enact them.

Thus, today’s ruling against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its quest to impose “net neutrality” rules on the internet was an amazing and hopeful sign that the federal courts may finally be willing to clip the wings of Obamunism, before it becomes as powerful as New Dealism did 75 years ago. And this is true regardless of whether net neutrality itself is good or bad: Today’s ruling struck a blow for due process and rule of law, and against the Obamacle’s penchant for rule by decree:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC lacks authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks. That was a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company, which had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose such “network neutrality” obligations on broadband providers….

The FCC now defines broadband as a lightly regulated information service. That means it is not subject to the obligations traditional telecommunications services have to share their networks with competitors and treat all traffic equally. But the FCC maintains that existing law gives it authority to set rules for information services, including net neutrality rules.

Tuesday’s court decision rejected that reasoning, concluding that Congress has not given the FCC “untrammeled freedom” to regulate without explicit legal authority.

FCC Chairman Julius “Caesar” Genachowski, a crony of Obama’s from their Harvard Law Review days — meet the new boss, same as the old boss — takes exception to the very idea that he cannot enact any regulation he deems fit. True, the FCC predictably blames George W. Bush for the ruling, since the FCC originally promulgated its order in 2008; but that only proves the will to rule as a Caesar didn’t begin with the Obama administration.

But Genachowski took up the cause as soon as he was appointed; he enthusiastically supported it, and now he owns it. And it is Genachowski who now mulls ways to slalom around the federal circus court ruling, according to one of his allies:

With so much at stake, the FCC now has several options. It could ask Congress to give it explicit authority to regulate broadband. Or it could appeal Tuesday’s decision.

But both of those steps could take too long because the agency “has too many important things they have to do right away,” said Ben Scott, policy director for the public interest group Free Press. Free Press was among the groups that alerted the FCC to Comcast’s behavior after The Associated Press ran tests and reported that the cable company was interfering with attempts by some subscribers to share files online.

The more likely scenario, Scott believes, is that the agency will simply reclassify broadband as a more heavily regulated telecommunications service. That, ironically, could be the worst-case outcome from the perspective of the phone and cable companies.

Process, schmocess; who cares what the Constitution says about the legislative branch, not the executive, having exclusive power to enact federal legislation? There are too many important things we must do right away — we need action, action, action!

I doubt the real problem is lack of time to go through Congress and properly enact FCC authority to regulate the internet. Rather, I believe the real worry is that Congress might not do it. Republicans and some Democrats might object to the power grab, especially now, after ObamaCare and all the other government takeovers. The only time limiter is that, if this “due process” drags on long enough, we’ll have a new Congress that will at the very least have much stronger Republican minorities, and could very well have a Republican majority in one or both houses.

At that point, any “net neutrality” rules will necessarily give more consideration to intellectual property rights… and rely less on the Left’s hippie-mantra, “information wants to be free” — by which they generally mean, “I want to be able to download my favorite music, books, and movies without having to pay the copyright owners a dime.”

But at core, this argument is not about the merits of “net neutrality”; it is instead about whether we are to be a constitutional republic that limits what each branch of the federal government can do; or whether we are to retravel the Woodrow Wilson, liberal-fascist route of disdain for constitutional limitations in favor of pure populism… defined, as populism inevitably is, as the immediate imposition of whatever policy is popular — among the federal government’s inner circle of powerful congressmen, cabinet officials, and the president.

To heck with rule of law; and for that matter, to heck with rule by the people themselves. No need to think for yourselves, we’ll tell you what you think.

Bear in mind, if the FCC can promulgate “net neutrality” rules all on its own, without any grant of authority from Congress, then why couldn’t it likewise promulgate the “Fairness Doctrine” the same way? Or a rule making it illegal to broadcast “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” against the government — or to undermine government policy — à la Wilson’s Sedition Act of 1918? Adios, Fox News and conservative talk radio; buenas dias, the Government Broadcasting Agency.

It’s not a pretty future. But as Ebenezer Scrooge asked, is this the future that will be, or only a future that may be? As an optimist, I opt for the latter; the future is never fixed and can always be changed if we change our own ways.

We’ll have a perfect opportunity to demonstrate such hope and change on November 2nd.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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Do too few people see the situation on the FCC ruling as you, and I for that matter, do? That the gubmit seems to believe that it can absolutely do anything it pleases, compel any actions, deny Constitutional rights by diktat. Post ruling, the FCC is now put forth a broadband tax request supposedly for necessary emergency upgrades. Seems they’re hoping that the current Congress will be amenable to it before the November That Can’t Come Soon Enough.

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