The Daily Dish

Right-sizing FCC Internet Regulation

Yesterday Department of Transportation (DOT) secretary Elaine Chao stated that the White House’s infrastructure plan will not contain a list of specific projects to which the infrastructure funds would be directed. Chao said the president’s proposal will be revealed sometime in late May, followed by a more detailed proposal released in the third quarter of 2017.

With the Congressional Review Act’s (CRA) timeframe expired, the Senate on Wednesday pushed multiple bills aimed at regulatory reform. One bill that a Senate Panel pushed through was the Midnight Rules Relief Act which aims to allow Congress to repeal multiple regulations at the same time, helping to expedite Congress’s regulatory reform actions. Additionally, the Senate advanced the bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act which would require federal regulators to “issue the most cost effective rules.” Regulatory reform has been a primary focus of this administration thus far.

Eakinomics: Right-sizing FCC Internet Regulation

Today Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Ajit Pai will begin to unwind Obama-era rules on the Internet. But it is important to understand the nature of the “unwinding.” This is less of a disagreement about what constitutes good behavior on the Internet, and much more a question of the legal authority of the FCC. There is a reason the FCC has been repeatedly rebuked by the courts. Pai is finally getting it right.

If you were to watch John Oliver, or read the countless reports about this new rulemaking, you would think that the 2015 Open Internet Rules based on Title II reclassification was the only way to keep cable and telephone companies in line. But as AAF has explained before, there are countless options to ensure the Internet is kept open and free.

Congress has never written these kinds of rules into statute, and in reality, the only way out of this mess is for it to take legislative action. Still, the FCC gave itself broad discretionary authority when it wrote the 2015 rules, going so far as to even worry some of the most ardent supporters of network neutrality. In reclassifying the Internet, the FCC assumed the power to push for privacy rules that had never been approved, to determine the contour of interconnection agreements, to potentially regulate consumer broadband service rates, and to wade into cybersecurity regulation. It did so even though violations of the open Internet are rare, and the last FCC even admitted this was the case in a buried footnote. The overreach is simply unwarranted.

Pai should be praised for his effort to begin undoing years of agency overreach. Congress, not the FCC, needs to lead the way.

Disclaimer

Fact of the Day

From 2014 to 2015, the median broadband service speed has increased faster than the mean service speed, suggesting that the broadband market is evening out.