Thursday, August 05, 2010

No Internet Regulation Without Congressional Authorization

I just read a press report – which may or may not turn out to be true - that the talks at the FCC among the various parties trying to reach a compromise on net neutrality have broken down. (Google and Verizon are apparently still negotiating.) If it is true the talks among the broader group have broken down, this certainly does not mean FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski should move forward with his proposal to classify Internet providers as common carriers.

According to Bloomberg News’ Todd Shields, Chairman Genachowski told reporters that any resolution “that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable.” Implicit, if not explicit, in this statement – see the use of “preserve” - is a recognition of the reality that the Internet is presently is free and open.

That being so, and the FCC has not seriously suggested otherwise since it began its campaign last fall to impose net neutrality regulation, the default position certainly should be no new Internet regulation without congressional authorization.

If Chairman Genachowski were suggesting that action is needed right now to “restore” the openness of the Internet in light of a demonstrable market failure harming consumers, we would be having a different conversation. But he is not. Often the best way to “preserve” a state of affairs that is working well is to do nothing. Or at least follow the Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.”

Most Americans think the government has enough real problems on its hands – and this includes the FCC's hands – to waste time addressing phantom ones. Maybe Americans need a new rallying cry: "No Internet Regulation Without Congressional Authorization!"