Fairness Doctrine for the Internet? It Could Be Coming

Have you forgotten about Obama’s attempt to control the Internet — in Orwellian doublespeak known as “Net Neutrality”? Well, the Republican House of Representatives (to their credit) has not forgotten.

Two days before Christmas, the FCC issued ‘net neutrality’ rules on a partisan 3-2 vote that restrict how Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon can manage their network traffic and serve customers. 

The Wall Street Journal reports: “The regulation is a favorite of big Web content companies and Naderite consumerists who want

more political sway over the Internet. Congress has never given the FCC authority to regulate the Internet, which is why the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the agency last year when it tried to enforce net neutrality rules against Comcast. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski nonetheless pressed ahead, despite the absence of any market failure or consumer harm that might justify new rules.”

This is the whole problem with federal regulation of broadcasting in the first place. Under regulation authorized by Congress decades ago, the FCC is permitted to decide what is and is not “market failure.” This is an entirely subjective and arbitrary term. Consumers already communicate market failure by failing to buy enough of a product or service for the company providing that product/service to make a profit. If Amazon.com sells enough books and satisfies enough customers to make a profit — we call that market success. If they don’t, we call it market failure. Just as there’s no need to establish an FCC to control book distributors, there’s no need to have an FCC to control broadcasting and the Internet.

There’s actually no such thing as “market failure” in the sense that government talks about it. The “market” refers to people making countless calculated (or impulsive) decisions in the marketplace involving their own money. If people make errors in spending their money, this is not a failure in the market. It’s simply a failure of people to exercise good judgment. Of course, many consumer decisions are highly contextual and involve matters of mere preference. Who is the government to decide what a market failure or market success is? If anything, government authorities are the least qualified, since they have no accountability for any of the decisions they make, unlike consumers and business owners.

Of course, we all know that market success is not the purpose of the FCC. The purpose of the FCC is not to help markets, but rather to ensure that markets (in the field of broadcasting) do what the government wants them to do. Over the years of its existence, the FCC has not made the field of broadcasting better for consumers and broadcasters. It has simply gotten in the way, establishing things such as the “Fairness Doctrine,” and “public service announcements,” mandating that broadcasters provide information and viewpoints that people will not otherwise voluntarily purchase.

The Obama Administration has decided to extend this faulty reasoning to the Internet. “If the federal government can decide what’s OK to broadcast, and how to broadcast, then the federal government can likewise decide how to provide broadband, and to whom.” Remember, Obama and his cohorts think this is a GOOD thing.

Given the premises of both Obama and the FCC, how much of a stretch is it to establish a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet? Or government-mandated public service announcements on private websites? In principle, this would be no different from what the government has already done to radio and television through the FCC. Plus, given the arbitrary nature of the FCC’s powers, government could do a lot more to control both broadcast and the Internet content.

Fairness Doctrine for the Internet? Forced public service announcements? Political websites required to offer equal time for different points-of-view (that is to say, for Democratic liberal and socialist ones)? In principle, there’s nothing to stop it once Obama and the government take control of broadband. Like regulation of television and radio, they’ll claim they’re only “policing” us. But don’t the police carry guns? And white collar bureaucrats have way more arbitrary power than the police ever will.

While it’s true that Congress did not authorize Obama’s decree to take over the Internet, it would still not be Constitutional if they did. Just as it was never Constitutional for government to declare the airwaves government property, it wouldn’t be Constitutional for Congress to declare broadband government property. Of course, Obama doesn’t care what Congress thinks. He’ll just declare anything he wants government property. The website on which you’re reading this article? It’s Obama’s. We question him because he allows it, and only for as long as he allows it.

Last week the House voted 240 to 179 to reverse the arbitrary Obama Administration rule-making. Representative Greg Walden of Oregon introduced the measure under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn agency rules with a simple majority in the House and Senate. On the House floor, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said that the FCC had ‘overstepped its authority and is attempting to seize control of one of the nation’s greatest technological success stories.’

According to the Wall Street Journal, by the FCC’s own reckoning, 95% of the country has access to broadband, and inside of a decade the number of Internet users has grown to 200 million from eight million. Meanwhile, prices are falling and choices are expanding.

What does this tell us? Something other than the well-being of consumers is the motive of the FCC in taking over the Internet. The motive is power and control, plain and simple.

I have an idea. How about abolishing the FCC altogether?