Abolish the FCC

Twas looking for more gov’t agencies whose value long expired.  A plethora of pork in the DC cornucopia, to be sure.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be a great target for the Pubs to target.

Over the Christmas holidays, the FCC committed a brazen bit of a power grab:

On the eve of Christmas Eve, while you probably weren’t paying attention, the Obama Administration released the text of its new Internet regulations, which mark a significant pivot from the hands-off approach to the Web observed by previous Republican and Democratic Administrations.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski delayed the release of the “net neutrality” order so he could incorporate rebuttals to the two dissenting commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, who argued that the new regulations are unnecessary and outside the agency’s purview. The closer you inspect Mr. Genachowski’s justifications for his FCC power grab, the weaker they look.


Mr. Genachowski also continues to insist that the FCC has “ancillary” jurisdiction over the Internet under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, notwithstanding a federal court decision earlier this year that said the law grants the agency no such regulatory authority. “Were we to accept that theory of ancillary authority,” wrote the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in April, “we see no reason why the Commission would have to stop there, for we can think of few examples of regulations that [the Commission] . . . would be unable to impose upon Internet service providers.”

The FCC’s brazen power grab is already producing a welcome backlash on Capitol Hill. GOP Representative Marsha Blackburn says she’ll introduce legislation to prohibit the FCC from enforcing net neutrality rules. And Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison plans to introduce a “resolution of disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn regulatory agency orders with a simple majority in the House and Senate.

This is the leftists’ methodology of bypassing the rule of law by using a regulatory agency.  Even if a court rules they don’t have the authority.  Modern liberalism’s contempt for the rudimentary provisions of our republic is no longer behind a mask.  Some are openly asking if we talk about the Constitution too much or if it’s too old.  For leftists, it’s a chess game where they ask you to play by the rules while they flout them.

One of the better articles for abolishing the FCC is courtesy of Jack Shafer and Slate. Juicy parts:

Suppose Congress had established in the early 19th century a Federal Publications Commission to regulate the newspaper, magazine, and newsletter businesses. The supporters of the FPC would have argued that such regulation was necessary because paper-pulp-grade timber is a scarce resource, and this scarcity made it incumbent upon the government to determine not only who could enter the publications business but where. Hence, the FPC would issue publication licenses to the “best” applicants and deny the rest.Whenever an aspiring publisher pointed out that timber wasn’t scarce, that huge groves of trees in Canada and the western territories made it plentiful, and that he wanted to start a new publication based on this abundance, an FPC commissioner would talk him down. He’d explain that just because somebody had discovered additional timber didn’t mean that the scarcity problem was over, it only meant that timber was relatively less scarce than before. He’d go on to say that the FPC needed to study how best to exploit this new timber before issuing new licenses.

Based on the notion of scarcity, the FPC would have evolved a power to prohibit licensees from using their paper for anything but publishing the kind of print product the FPC had authorized—no using that licensed paper to print party invitations or menus or handbills or facial tissue, the FPC would mandate.

And so on.

Aside from bottling up debate, what the FCC really excelled at was postponing the creation of new technologies. It stalled the emergence of such feasible technologies as FM radio, pay TV, cell phones, satellite radio, and satellite TV, just to name a few. As Declan McCullagh wrote in 2004, if the FCC had been in charge of the Web, we’d still be waiting for its standards engineers to approve of the first Web browser.

Although today’s FCC is nowhere near as controlling as earlier FCCs, it still treats the radio spectrum like a scarce resource that its bureaucrats must manage for the “public good,” even though the government’s scarcity argument has been a joke for half a century or longer. The almost uniformly accepted modern view is that information-carrying capacity of the airwaves isn’t static, that capacity is a function of technology and design architecture that inventors and entrepreneurs throw at spectrum. To paraphrase this forward-thinking 1994 paper (PDF), the old ideas about spectrum capacity are out, and new ones about spectrum efficiency are in.

The FCC’s budget for 2011 is projected to be $352,500,000.  That’s an easy cut that will reduce our outlays and increase the efficiency of communications in this country.  Abolish the modern day buggies and whips bureau, please.

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