Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines to adopt a Notice of Inquiry opening a new proceeding to regulate the Internet by reclassifying it under Title II of the Communications Act. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski calls this his “Third Way” plan. In a PFF press release, I issued the following response:
In its ongoing ‘by-any-means-necessary’ quest to regulate the Internet via Net Neutrality mandates, Chairman Genachowski’s FCC continues to flaunt the rule of law and magically invent its own authority as it goes along. If this Chairman wants to bring the Net under his thumb and regulate broadband networks like plain-vanilla public utilities, he should ask Congress for the authority to pursue such imperial ambitions. As the law stands today, the FCC has no such authority. Indeed, the unambiguously deregulatory thrust of the Telecom Act of 1996 stands in stark contrast to Chairman Genachowski’s outdated vision for Big Government Broadband.
The FCC stands on the cusp of killing one of the great deregulatory success stories of modern economic history by reviving the discredited regulatory industrial policies of the 19th Century. The revisionism about that epoch is dead wrong: Price controls and protected markets limited choice and stifled innovation. With the agency rolling back the regulatory clock in this fashion, today marks the beginning of the Internet’s “Lost Decade” of stymied investment, innovation, and job creation as all sides wage battle over the legality of reclassification and its implementation.