The FCC says the President’s new Title II rules are not about controlling speech. I guess that memo never made it to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who seems to believe that controlling free speech is the very heart of the new Internet takeover.  

In her statement at the FCC’s open meeting last week, when she voted for the President’s new plan, she said:

“So here we are, 224 years [after the Bill of Rights and it First Amendment became law], at a pivotal fork in the road, poised to preserve those very same virtues of a democratic society – free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, freedom of assembly and a functioning free market.

“As we look around the world we see foreign governments blocking access to websites including social media — in sum, curtailing free speech. There are countries where it is routine for governments, not the consumer, to determine the type of websites and content that can be accessed by its citizens. I am proud to be able to say that we are not among them.”

Really, Commissioner Clyburn?  So, the FCC isn’t regulating Internet content?

Hardly. 

“We are here to ensure that there is only one Internet where all applications, new products, ideas and points of view, have an equal chance of being seen and heard…[Consequently the Order] contains strong, clear rules to ensure that all content, all applications and all bits are treated equally.”

Gosh, that sounds awful lot like the affirmative action for Internet content to me.  A plan and/or legal routine which will use the force of government law to curtail the free speech of private communications companies so that all content is treated “fairly.”

Clearly, the Order clamps down on speech, association and protected First Amendment rights and behaviors. That is its very design. Otherwise, why impose it? I mean, we do nothing other than communicate, share information and associate with others via the Internet. And the President’s new rules limit those relationships substantially.

If you’re not convinced, then what’s this about? In explaining the 300-plus page Order (which the public hasn’t yet seen), FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler notes:

The Order also includes a general conduct rule that can be used to stop new and novel threats to the Internet. That means there will be basic ground rules and a referee on the field to enforce them. If an action hurts consumers, competition, or innovation, the FCC will have the authority to throw the flag”. (Emphasis added)

Stopping “new and novel threats” through a general conduct rule – which, I’ll add, cannot be found in the Communications Act – sounds all but tailor made for government content controls.

Others seem to think that, too. Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz points out on Monday that the so-called general-conduct rule “reportedly has seven standards, one of which is the ‘effect on free expression.’ [And while] Net neutrality was supposed to ban online discrimination based on content, [instead] it is empowering the FCC—the agency that for decades enforced the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ and that last year proposed studying ‘bias’ in newsrooms—to chill speech.”

Ambiguity and amorphous standards are the tools of tyranny. The President’s new Internet takeover laws were built on fear and speculation over what ISP “gatekeepers” might do, not what has actually happened. Their genesis came from just four specious “Net Neutrality” violations over the past decade among literally trillions upon trillions of Internet communications. They reflect the fact that speech control is baked into the core of the FCC’s regulatory DNA. It’s what drives the vague public interest standard underlying most grants of authority from the Commission. And, it’s what has allowed the Commission to impose “Red Lion” and “Pacifica” oriented content controls on broadcasters at various points since 1949, based on notions of spectrum scarcity, and the pervasiveness, ubiquity, ease of access and general importance of the medium to Americans.

That mindset is now being grafted onto the Internet.

According to the FCC, “scarcity” is present because broadband competition is essentially “non-existent,” it being constricted by n’er do well wired, broadband “monopolists,” as well as limited by government-licensed spectrum grants to wireless operators. This is not to mention all the local controls which ostensibly subvert the aims the broadband economy, further creating “scarce” broadband competition in the U.S.

Of course, we’re reminded in every FCC speech that the Internet is pervasive, everywhere (except where it isn’t, by self-serving agency definition), easy to use and important to every facet of daily life. Heck, where would we be without the Internet (which the FCC seems to credit itself for the medium’s growth and survival)?

All of this works to help the agency justify and impose its expansive, shape-shifting Section 706 “virtuous cycle” authority to protect the edge by micromanaging how core infrastructure grows. And, its 1934 Title II telephone regulations for the Internet, which clamp down on behaviors, information and speech in the name of making sure no one is unduly disadvantaged by anyone else’s communications flowing over the Internet.

Tom Wheeler inadvertently confirmed this last week, saying:

“The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules…[So, the agency’s new rules are] no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the 1st Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.”

Except the First Amendment declares it’s not the government’s job to be making those kinds of rules. Consequently, Tom Wheeler, and the rest who want to regulate “Net Neutrality,” have the concept exactly on its head.

We can worry about what this means in a practical and legal sense later. But, let’s put away the prevarication that these regulations aren’t about controlling free speech.

That is their essence. Period.

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In this short video, TechFreedom’s Berin Szoka says Title II-like public utility regulation works for only for railroads and true monopolies – neither of which operate on the Internet today. So, how is that regulation going to grow the medium? Answer – it won’t.

Seems the FCC is more interested in a power grab than anything else. The Internet ecosystem and Americans will be harmed as a result.

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The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org:

Mt. Vernon, VA, February 26, 2015 – Welcome to Occupy the Internet – that is, ObamaNet. Today’s two White House Orders from its “independent” FCC have effected a virtual and physical takeover of the Web. It cannot be put any more plainly than that. Sadly, Americans will suffer as a result.

How? Let’s take a look.

FCC” Order number 1: Imposition of utility regulations for the Internet. In seeking to make the Internet more “fair and open,” the FCC’s circa-1934 utility laws ban practices, agreements and exchanges of information which every other segment of our economy uses to make better, cheaper, more innovative and commercially sustainable offerings for consumers and society. Instead of free actors in the marketplace making decisions on their own, the FCC now is in charge, even though it can’t keep its own website from crashing. Say goodbye to private investment and permission-less innovation, especially the stuff on the margins. ObamaNet will slow the vital medium down to the speed of government. But, that’s OK because it’s “fair” and the “right thing to do” so evil corporations don’t screw up “our” Internet.

Jubilant "Real" Net Neutrality demonstrators outside the FCC today just before the agency announced its ObamaNet takeover.

Jubilant “Real” Net Neutrality demonstrators outside the FCC today just before the agency announced the ObamaNet takeover.

Perhaps more nefariously, not only will the law compel communications providers to carry the speech of others, its vague “Internet conduct standard” will actually examine the effects of any given provider’s practices on free speech. This “I know it when I see it” standard – exerted arbitrarily by the FCC – will be tooled and is ripe for abuse. It cannot be First Amendment-friendly. Political, commercial, and discomfiting speech, among other forms of free expression flowing over the ‘Net, are all now fair game for regulators to peruse, judge and then limit in their efforts to promote buildout of the Web.

Imagine how that will boost free expression.

Not.

FCC” Order number 2: Usurpation of state taxpayer protection laws to promote local broadband. Here, the FCC will actively work to preempt state laws that protect taxpayers from expensive and wasteful muni-provided broadband projects. So, not only will Americans be on the hook for new taxes and fees which will result from the FCC’s 1934 Title II / Net Neutrality rules (noted above), in 20 states they could also be responsible for risky local broadband projects they otherwise sought to avoid through their votes – a tax increase by any other name, made all the more painful because it was ordered by partisan bureaucrats in Washington.

But wait, it gets worse. Government-provided “competition” is designed to crowd out private actors due to its inherent financing and other advantages over them. Where this crowd-out occurs (and it will because that’s the implicit policy of ObamaNet), the last digital-man standing will be the government provider of broadband (the same entity responsible for our “ever-innovating” streets and public spaces). It’s hard enough to get a church meeting in a public school, or obtain a permit to hold a local parade. Do Americans really want local officials in charge of their Internet, too, peering over their every keystroke in order to protect the taxpayer’s “investment”?

That’ll be a boon to free speech (and privacy), right?

Not so much.

A roomful of Net Neutrality zealots glued to their laptops, tablets and smartphones - evidence that the Internet ecosystem works - as they sort of listen to FCC officials explain the ObamaNet takeover in one of the FCC's not-so-high-tech hearing overflow rooms (note the lonely, 21" circa-1996 TV at top provided by the agency taking over the Internet).

A roomful of Net Neutrality zealots glued to their laptops, tablets and smartphones (evidence, of course, that the Internet ecosystem works without today’s new laws) as they sort of listen to FCC officials explain why 1934-era rules are now needed to “protect” the Internet, in one of the FCC’s not-so-high-tech overflow rooms earlier this morning.  Hardly a confidence builder – note the lonely, 21″ circa-1996 TV / hearing monitor at top provided by the same agency that’s now taking over the 21st-Century Internet.

As the agent of the President’s takeover, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has pinky-promised he won’t go too far with the President’s expansive and likely illegal new rules. But Americans have no privity of contract with any FCC. And the man who wrote the new laws – President Obama – leaves office in 2016. Stated differently, these rules combined with the automatic regulatory sclerosis visited upon us by unelected bureaucrats mean the laws will only get more restrictive for ‘Net users, not more liberating.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Former FCC commissioner Michael Copps saluting his comrades in joyous rapture over the coming takeover at the FCC today.

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (center)  saluting his comrades outside the FCC today in joyous celebration of the President’s new Internet power grab.

The rapid advance of technology, industry best practices and reputation management, vibrant and growing competition, consumer education and transparency tools, and existing consumer protection laws all have worked to benefit consumers and protect them from actual harm. Over the past decade, more than a trillion dollars of private investment poured into U.S. broadband networks, making them the envy of the world, and creating a vibrant ecosystem that works – all because of a “light touch” government policy which kept government regulation of the Internet to an absolute minimum.

Regulation isn’t needed now. Absolutely.

No matter. Today’s Orders cement the long-stated goal of progressives to control and “own” the networks. ObamaNet is its result. Based on literally four specious Net Neutrality infractions these past 10 years, and built on misdirection and fear, ObamaNet will occupy the Internet’s virtual sphere of speech, information and ideas, as well as its physical sphere, with new taxpayer-built digital networks in locales where competition is arbitrarily deemed to be anemic.

That is its design. With unbounded discretion, it seeks to take, force and compel us to be more “fair.” It is an open and notorious aggression against our freedom.

Welcome to the occupation. If you love your DMV, Post Office, or the IRS, you’re going to love ObamaNet.

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If you were listening to the Rush Limbaugh Show today, you would have heard Rush talk about Net Neutrality (btw – he thinks it’s an Obama takeover of the Internet), and, in particular, Randy May’s important take on it. And what is that, you may ask? Well, Randy believes that in the four decades that he has practiced communications law, the FCC’s Title II / Net Neutrality Order coming out tomorrow is not only one of the agency’s most momentous decisions, it may also be one of its most misguided rulings, too.

Take a look at the video Randy and I shot on Tuesday, which more or less follows what Rush was talking about this afternoon, as well as this blog post by Randy in The Hill.

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Video: Internet Takeover Will Be the Stupidest Thing Done by the FCC Since 1934, with Scott Cleland

February 23, 2015

I was able to catch up with NetCompetition’s Scott Cleland on Capitol Hill last Friday.   In the accompanying (short) video, he’s not pulling any punches: In his view, the President’s takeover of the Internet this coming Thursday – via his FCC and its imposition of old-fashioned telephone rules for the Internet – is about […]

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Video: The President’s Internet Power Grab Hurts Free Markets and Free Speech, With Less Government’s Seton Motley

February 16, 2015

On February 26th, the President will begin his Internet takeover with the FCC’s planned implementation of Title II-oriented Net Neutrality rules. So, what does President Obama’s power grab mean for free markets and free speech? Not a lot of either, states Less Government’s Seton Motley in a video he and I shot this weekend. Take […]

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The President Wants Politics? OK, Credit Barack Obama for the Internet Takeover Starting February 26th

February 14, 2015

</begin rant> The other day, a Washington Examiner story on the Federal Election Commission caught my eye, providing further confirmation that the waning days of Internet freedom are here. The piece notes: Claiming that thousands of public comments condemning “dark money” in politics can’t be ignored, the Democrat-chaired Federal Election Commission on Wednesday appeared ready […]

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Government’s Internet Takeover Officially Begins February 26th!

February 7, 2015
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Statement: The Chairman Proposes to Kelo Wired and Wireless Broadband Networks via Title II

February 4, 2015

The following statement – in response to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Open Internet / Net Neutrality outline presented in Wired today – may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org: Alexandria, VA, February 4, 2015 – Today, the Chairman essentially proposed to “Kelo” core Internet infrastructure, urging the government taking of networks built by […]

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The Anti-Economy, Anti-Growth FCC

February 4, 2015

Last week, government numbers came out showing that the economy “grew” at an anemic rate of 2.4% in 2014. Technically, the recession ended over four years ago. By now, many economists believe that the U.S. economy should have been growing from 3% to 4% annually. To date, however, the economy has yet to spring back […]

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