There has been mounting evidence in the last two weeks that the Internet, one of the last unregulated venues for communication, might well be headed for federal regulation.
What makes the specter of Internet regulation (or “net neutrality,” as its proponents prefer to call it) all the more ominous is that it might become law through rulings by the Federal Communications Commission rather than a vote of elected representatives in Congress.
On Sept. 24, the Washington Post reported that the FCC was working with activists seeking to generate comments in favor of tough, 1930s-style regulation of telephone. In what the Post’s Nancy Scola dubbed “an unusual collaboration,” supporters of net neutrality “were keeping up a round-the-clock watch of ECFS’s [Electronic Comment Filing System] health. Headquartered in Southwest Washington, D.C., the FCC’s technologists were doing the same.
Noting that the ECFS system for public engagement on communications issues is 17 years old and “isn’t up to the age of digital engagement,” reporter Scola noted that “all involved saw the deluge coming and activists — planning a one-day ‘Internet Slowdown’ that called on the public to contact the FCC — reached out to the bureaucrats to see how they might keep the system afloat.”
By the time the September 15 deadline rolled around for public comments on “so-called net neutrality,” Scola reported, 3.7 million comments had been recorded by the federal government, more than the FCC has gotten on any debate in its 80-year history.”
Opponents of “so-called net neutrality” hit this hard.
“If the Post’s report is accurate,” wrote Mike Wendy of MediaFreedom in an open letter to the FCC Inspector General, then his organization “believes this ‘unusual collaboration’ undermines the Commission’s open rulemaking process, revealing in it a bias that defeats the needed reason and factual underpinning for a lawful rule to result.”
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