Clipping the Wings of the FCC

It is not only the disastrous state of the national purse, but the changing role of government which has many Americans taking a look at trimming the fat in Washington and scaling back some of the intrusive powers of federal agencies. This week the Heritage Foundation sets its sights (ooops… old tone) on one of the more odious examples in the form of the Federal Communications Commission. (FCC)

One of the nation’s top conservative think tanks has issued a report urging Congress to review 20 “unnecessary and harmful regulations” that the group says should be clipped as soon as possible. Three of the 20 are administered by the Federal Communications Commission, notes the Heritage Foundation’s new Rolling Back Red Tape backgrounder, and involve oversight over ISPs and media acquisitions.

“This regulatory tide must be reversed,” Heritage’s Dianne Katz concludes. “Policy­makers should not just prevent harmful new regulations, but must repeal costly and unnecessary rules already on the books.”

Three targets of FCC powers are identified in the paper:

  • Net Neutrality – Repeal the Open Internet Order
  • Media ownership rules – Pre-WW2 rules are long overdue for review
  • FCC merger review authority – Modern media structure has changed dramatically since last century

As with many government entities, there is still a valid argument to be made that a need remains for the FCC in certain areas. These would include setting up public broadcast frequency bands and power levels to prevent geographical overlap and signal loss in local markets. But the technology and reach of media has evolved over the last seventy years or more to the point where the FCC’s original mission has become largely antiquated in many areas. Worse, attempts to translate those original powers to the modern playing field have resulted in blatant overreach.

The FCC was completely unprepared for the rise of the internet, satellite radio and other forms of new media and communications. Further, in a nation which prides itself on freedom of expression and open debate they have embarrassed themselves by attempting to use their regulatory powers in ways which actively seek to defeat those very principles.

It may not be time to eliminate the FCC entirely, but it certainly needs a good looking over and a session with the paring knife.