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.

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