A favorite PR maven pitched me (and probably many of you) Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) email suggesting that WiFi is threatened by the Google-Verizon “deal.”
“The Google-Verizon ‘framework’ was written so as not to apply to wireless Internet services,” says Franken. “If you use wi-fi or access the Internet on your phone, this is a serious problem.”
Kindamaybenotsomuch. WiFi is wireless, yes, but it’s not what they’re talking about when they say “wireless.”
But what caught my eye is Senator Franken’s somewhat inverted take on power arrangements in the federal government: “This evening, I’ll be speaking at an FCC hearing in Minneapolis. I’ll urge the commissioners to reject the Google-Verizon framework, stop the Comcast/NBC merger, and take action to keep the Internet free and open.”
Folks, Article I, section 1 of the United States Constitution creates the United States Senate, with section 3 describing the Senate’s makeup and some procedures.
The Federal Communications Commission is not a constitutional body. The best view is that Congress has no authority to establish an FCC like we have today. The better view is that Congress should not maintain the sprawling FCC we have today. And the only correct view is that FCC is a creation of Congress, beneath it in every relevant respect.
Senator Franken is supposed to be the boss of the FCC, not a supplicant “urging” the FCC to do x, y, and z.
Does it matter a lot? No. Senator Franken is mostly making a symbolic appeal to gin up constituent support. But he’s also symbolizing the abasement of the legislative branch to an independent agency that has no constitutional pedigree.