Free Press: Internet Too Important to Tie Up in Legal Limbo

by on September 5, 2008 · 10 comments

Communications Daily (subscription) reported today on the avalanche of lawsuits being filed challenging the FCC’s Comcast “net neutrality” order.   Four were filed this week in four different U.S. appeals circuits — the lucky court that will actually decide the case will be decided by lottery.

The story quotes Ben Scott of Free Press, the energizer rabbit of pro-regulation media groups, decrying Comcast’s appeal.  “The Internet is too important to let Comcast tie it up in legal limbo,’ he says.  “Congress should act now to pass Net Neutrality laws that clear up any uncertainty once and for all.”

Huh?  On what planet, exactly, is Free Press based?  Put aside for the moment the question of whether Comcast is responsible for the legal chaos that has ensued from the FCC’s decision to regulate the way it manages Internet traffic.   Strangely enough, when Free Press petitioned the Commission to get involved, I didn’t hear them decrying the “legal limbo” it would cause.

But even more jaw-dropping is the idea that Congress could “clear up any uncertainty” by adopting its own Internet regulations.   The mind boggles.   The last major congressional foray into communications policy was the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which spawned over half a decade of litigation.  There are still children of telecom lawyers going to college off the fees generated by that one.

And that legislation was a relative piece of chocolate cake compared to the torte of net neutrality.   Proponents of mandated neutrality — which Commissioner Robert McDowell has likened to a regulatory Rorschach test — can’t even agree on what it is.  Lord know how long it would take the courts to sort it out — if ever they are able to.

Free Press is right, of course, to worry about the endless litigation which will — and already is — being caused by FCC Internet regulation.   Rather than even more rules from Congress, however,  the solution is for the FCC to reverse course on the regulation it unwisely imposed last month.

  • MikeRT

    The story quotes Ben Scott of Free Press, the energizer rabbit of pro-regulation media groups, decrying Comcast’s appeal. “The Internet is too important to let Comcast tie it up in legal limbo,’ he says. “Congress should act now to pass Net Neutrality laws that clear up any uncertainty once and for all.”

    This has got to be the Mona Lisa of works of irony…

  • besbin

    Irony abounds in this matter. The FCC relies first and foremost on Section 230(b) of the Communications Act to support its exercise of ancillary jurisdiction to regulate Comcast's broadband Internet service. That provision was previously cited in FCC orders almost exclusively for its policy directive that the agency “preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”

  • besbin

    Irony abounds in this matter. The FCC relied principally on Section 230(b) of the Communications Act to support the exercise of its ancillary jurisdiction over Comcast's broadband Internet service. That provision charges the FCC with preserving “the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” A reversal of course is indeed called for.

  • mwendy

    For certainty, the Court needs to clear up the underlying “Chevron” and related APA concerns. Who wants to take risk / invest when agencies can use their Chevron leeway to eviscerate the APA / procedural due process? That seems to me to be a paramount issue.

  • mwendy

    For certainty, the Court needs to clear up the underlying “Chevron” and related APA concerns. Who wants to take risk / invest when agencies can use their Chevron leeway to eviscerate the APA / procedural due process? That seems to me to be a paramount issue.

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