One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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I believe the (Federal Communications Commission) FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act….
Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that the FCC is supposed to be an independent agency – removed from the influence of politicians and political pressure. President Obama dropping this bomb is a nigh unprecedented overt effort to exert influence on the Commission’s allegedly non-partisan, fact-based deliberations.
Let’s ignore the fact that Congress passed law – signed by then-President Bill Clinton – that classified the Internet the way it is currently classified. Thus only Congress can Re-classify it. This would be yet another unilateral Obama Administration fiat.
Let’s ignore the fact that how Congress classified the Internet has already been adjudicated up to and through the Supreme Court – and the Court ruled it’s classified as it’s classified.
Let’s ignore the fact that the FCC has already twice imposed Net Neutrality – and twice been unanimously told by the D.C. Circuit Court that they don’t have the authority to do so.
Let’s ignore the fact that being twice with unanimity rebuked for overreaching on Net Neutrality and then going for Title II Reclassification is responding to being twice rebuked for a power grab – with an exponentially larger power grab. Like being twice told you can’t have a piece of pie – and your responding by taking the entire pie.
Let’s ignore the fact that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler – a President Obama campaign-coin-bundling appointee – is often developing policies, including his looming prospective Title II-Net Neutrality power grab, while completely cutting out of the process the two Commission Republicans (Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly). And that Commissioners Pai and O’Reilly are routinely delivered hundreds of pages on which they’re supposed to vote – just a scant few hours before they are supposed to vote. If all of this sounds like, well, most of Congress – it’s only because it should.
The FCC is made up of five voting Commissioners – one of whom also serves as Chairman. Three are of the President’s Party – two of the opposition Party. So right now it’s 3-2 Democrat – and Democrat Chairman Wheeler is more and more pressing his partisan advantage.
Let’s ignore all of that. Let’s instead focus on this.
Should Chairman Wheeler and his two fellow unelected FCC Democrats behave like President Obama, their fellow Donkeys and their ideological brethren want them to and Reclassify the Internet – any three unelected FCC bureaucrats will from then on be able to raise taxes on the Internet whenever they want.
How do we know this? Phones are regulated under Title II – and this just happened.
Except the FCC didn’t. Three unelected Democrat FCC Commissioners did. By an additional 17.2%. Without their two Republican Commission-mates – and without Congress.
The FCC votes on these sorts of items every month. Which means they could raise taxes on phones every month. And – post-Reclassification – the Internet. This phone tax increase will also serve as a preemptive Net tax increase.
And all of this is on top of the gi-normous phone taxes baseline that will immediately apply to the post-Reclassification Web. This 17.2% hike is a Universal Service Fund (USF) tax increase. That tax was already absurdly high – a pre-hoist 16.1% of our phone bill. And even without an FCC vote it goes up every quarter – automatically.
Do we want three unelected FCC Democrat bureaucrats to unilaterally grant themselves the power to tax the Internet at this ridiculous level? And have these tax rates increase automatically – and whenever three unelected bureaucrats want besides?
I didn’t think so.