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THE FEDERAL PAT-DOWN OF THE INTERNET

Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack

January 4, 2011

[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from United States Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack.]

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With so many Americans rightly focused on jobs and the economy, it is very possible that many people are unaware of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) scheme to impose a number of burdensome government regulations on the Internet. The move - while bad for consumers, innovation and investment - is not surprising because it is the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by President Barack Obama in 2008. Never mind that the Internet is a bright spot for our struggling economy and functioning just fine without what amounts to a federal pat-down of the inner workings of the Internet.

Federal regulation of the Internet, also known as network neutrality, has been seen as the holy grail for the media regulation obsessed left-wing special interest groups like Moveon.org, Free Press and George Soros's Open Society Institute for the latter half of the past decade. And with these and other special interests to satisfy going into a Presidential Election, it really does not matter that only 21 percent of Americans support federal regulation of the Internet over the free market or that these regulations will deter capital investment which create private sector jobs. Despite promises to change how Washington works, this is special interest policy-making 101 and to the Obama Administration's FCC all other facts are seen as inconvenient truths.

Sadly, this is not the FCC's first attempt to regulate the Internet. For years, my colleagues and I - primarily Republicans but also some Democrats - have introduced legislation and written to the FCC asking the commission to cease attempts to regulate the Internet unless given the clear authority to do so by Congress. The message in our correspondence to the FCC was crystal clear: Members of Congress do not believe you have the current legal authority to regulate the Internet, therefore, do not act. Like too many other out of control Washington agencies, the FCC did not listen.  In 2008, FCC bureaucrats attempted to extend their regulatory tentacles beyond the authority granted by Congress and were stopped cold by a court ruling earlier this year. Unfortunately, like teenagers determined to out-game an authority figure, the FCC was determined to prove it knew best. And so, here we are once again confronted with another big-government plan to regulate a vibrant component of our nation’s commerce.

At its core, the FCC’s plan to regulate the Internet will force businesses and people to check first with the government and get permission to innovate. Under this regime the FCC, not the free market, would determine what can be done online and what should be given priority. That’s right, an unaccountable FCC, which meets with special interests in private, will be able to craft rules to benefit politically favored companies that can afford expensive law firms so that they can gain competitive advantages. Are you angry? You should be.

As the Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell who staunchly opposes the FCC’s regulation of the Internet stated the following:

"Litigation will supplant innovation. Instead of investing in tomorrow’s technologies, precious capital will be diverted to pay lawyers’ fees. The era of Internet regulatory arbitrage has dawned."

But, all is not lost. Fortunately, we have the United States Constitution on our side. As a government agency the FCC is not elected by the people - Congress is. And, as our Constitution points out, the authority to makes laws is only granted to the elected representatives of the American people, ie. Congress, not the politically appointed FCC. As such, my colleagues and I will introduce legislation next Congress to undo this regulatory power grab by the FCC.

Unfortunately, each minute we spend reining-in out of touch bureaucrats who have never created a job in their lives is one less minute we spend focusing on getting our economy back on track and putting more Americans back to work.

The American people should reject this power-grab and demand that government get out of the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the Internet. As a Member of Commerce serving on the Committee with oversight of the FCC, that is what I will continue to do until this poorly conceived plan is abandoned once and for all.
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You can contact Congresswoman Bono Mack (via the FR) here.

About U.S. Representative Mary Bono Mack:
In 2010, Congresswoman Mary Bono resoundingly swept the 45th District Congressional election, earning her seventh full term in office. Congresswoman Bono was first elected to Congress in 1998, after a special election was held to fill the seat left vacant by her late husband, The Honorable Sonny Bono, Member of Congress.

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