FCC Gains Arbitrary Power Over Internet Innovation

(p. A11) Imagine if Steve Jobs, Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg had been obliged to ask bureaucrats in Washington if it was OK to launch the iPhone, Gmail, or Facebook’s forthcoming Oculus virtual-reality service. Ridiculous, right? Not anymore.
A few days before the Independence Day holiday weekend, the Federal Communications Commission announced what amounts to a system of permission slips for the Internet.
. . .
As the FCC begins to issue guidance and enforcement actions, it’s becoming clearer that critics who feared there would be significant legal uncertainty were right. Under its new “transparency” rule, for example, the agency on June 17 conjured out of thin air an astonishing $100 million fine against AT&T, even though the firm explained its mobile-data plans on its websites and in numerous emails and texts to customers.
The FCC’s new “Internet Conduct Standard,” meanwhile, is no standard at all. It is an undefined catchall for any future behavior the agency doesn’t like.
. . .
From the beginning, Internet pioneers operated in an environment of “permissionless innovation.” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler now insists that “it makes sense to have somebody watching over their shoulder and ready to jump in if necessary.” But the agency is jumping in to demand that innovators get permission before they offer new services to consumers. The result will be less innovation.

For the full commentary, see:
BRET SWANSON. “Permission Slips for Internet Innovation; The FCC’s new Web rules are already as onerous as feared and favor some business models over others.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Aug. 15, 2015): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 14, 2015.)

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