Regulatory Goodfellas Imposing Net Neutrality

by Mike Wendy on May 27, 2014

Government extortion is a great way to get policy goals achieved, seemingly exclaims Wall Street Journal’s Ryan Knutson in his article “A Back Route to FCC Goals” today.

In the piece, he writes:

A spate of telecom and media mergers is complicating the Federal Communications Commission’s already controversial agenda. But it might also offer a solution…

…Merger review could in theory give the FCC a way around a divisive and risky policy debate. In negotiating approval of deals, the commission gets the opportunity to extract concessions that could advance its policy goals—like net neutrality.

These “voluntary,” back room deals are a favorite of progressives and industry players. The agreements get larded with unrelated giveaways and treats to sate the big government agendas of hoodwinking policymakers, as well as improve the balance sheets of those seeking competitive advantage, being unbothered by the inconvenient process of due process and other checks and balances imposed by Congress.

“You got two-thirds of the industry in front of you potentially by the end of the summer, which is enormously tempting to try to create an industry structure around that,” gushes edge industry lobbyist, Harold Feld, in the article.

Tempting? This regulatory short circuit remains one of the FCC’s most oft-employed tools.  If the Agency (and others like it) could exert some self-control, then “tempting” would mean something.  It cannot, though.

It is especially offensive in the Net Neutrality context.  If, as the writer strongly suggests, the FCC is demanding such Net Neutrality agreements from the merging parties which it regulates, the Commission will have succeeded in imposing a policy on the majority of the industry that has twice been struck down by a Federal Court, has never been voted for by Congress, and simply isn’t based on any real harm to consumers.

“Who cares,” chuckle the regulatory Goodfellas at the FCC.  “Dat’s just da’ tribute dose companies gotta’ pay to play, ‘cuz dis ain’t no charity racket we runnin’ here.”

It’s a racket, alright.

“Solutions” based on this essentially lawless behavior undermine our self-governance. If the policies aren’t good enough to withstand the light of an open process, they shouldn’t be allowed to go forward through a dark alley, Cosa Nostra heist either.

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