by Capitol Confidential of Big Government
Four senior congressional Democrats inadvertently confirmed Monday that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—which, under Chairman Julius Genachowski’s leadership has been trying for months to impose contentious net neutrality rules—lacks the authority needed to regulate the Internet.
NO SUGAR Tonight D.C.
~Question is, will this administration do as it has a tendency to do? What it damn well pleases…stay tuned…~JP
For weeks, the FCC has been threatening to “reclassify” broadband in order to subject it to regulation that would institute net neutrality, despite concerns regarding jurisdiction and agency powers. However, now, Senators Jay Rockefeller and John Kerry, and Congressmen Henry Waxman and Rick Boucher say they will soon launch “a process to develop proposals” for revising the 1934 Communications Act, whose archaic framework the FCC wishes to impose on broadband services.
Rockefeller, Kerry, Waxman and Boucher chair the relevant communications, commerce and technology committees in the House and Senate.
According to a statement, “As the first step, [Rockefeller, Kerry, Waxman, Boucher] will invite stakeholders to participate in a series of bipartisan, issue-focused meetings beginning in June.” The release offered few other details on the move, which could prove controversial. Even Democrats who facially support the FCC’s end-goal of net neutrality adoption were caught off-guard by the commission’s unprecedented move to reclassify.
On Monday, 74 House Democrats sent Genachowski a letter expressing “serious concerns” with the commission’s reclassification agenda. The six dozen legislators urged Genachowski, the nation’s top communications regulator, “to carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment.”
“Like you, we believe in a transparent, data-driven process and stand ready to work with you on measures that will spur adopt and expand the use of broadband networks,” the letter reads. “But we remain suspicious of conclusions based on slogans rather than substance and of policies that restrict and inhibit the very innovation and growth that we all seek to achieve.”
Net neutrality critics say that irrespective of how it is instituted—via a questionable reclassification move under the present regime, explicitly, or indeed via reclassification under legislation that could potentially be overhauled to grant the FCC powers it currently lacks—the restriction and inhibition of innovation and growth is a result that would obtain.
In April, a federal appeals court found the FCC had overstepped its authority in regulating the activity of a broadband provider. A few weeks later the agency announced its intention to reclassify broadband, which was observed by many on Capitol Hill to be an end-run around both the legislature and judiciary.
If a legislative overhaul were pursued, observers say it would fix that problem, but the institution of net neutrality, whether by the front or back door, could still be an impediment to the successful promotion of a bipartisan broadband agenda supported by both the administration and congressional Democrats and Republicans.