Yesterday, President Barack Obama announced two nominations to the Federal Communications Commission: Jessica Rosenworcel, replacing Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps, and Ajit Pai, replacing Republican Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker.
The FCC faces a unique challenge: Because it regulates the communications industry, essentially every rule it issues implicates the free speech values at the heart of our Constitutional heritage. The First Amendment was intended to be a shield against government meddling, not a sword for regulatory activism, however well-intentioned. Moreover, the FCC regulates an industry being transformed by the Digital Revolution.
We at TechFreedom look forward to working with these new Commissioners to ensure that FCC regulations serve consumers by advancing competition and innovation while respecting free speech rights. The Commission should ask, and explicitly answer, the following questions whenever considering the need for new, or existing, regulations:
- What free speech rights are at stake?
- How substantial is the government’s interest? Has the market failed?
- Can regulation, always slow to start and slower to adapt, really address the problem better than technological change?
- Will the regulation’s benefits outweigh its costs, considering its likely unintended consequences?
- Are there less-restrictive and more speech-protective ways government can achieve its interest, such as enforcing existing antitrust and consumer protection laws, supporting consumer education, empowering users to make their own decisions, or compelling disclosure to consumers?