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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Remember that recurring Saturday Night Live skit where the late Chris Farley was the ultimate fanboy – interviewing those for whom he was the ultimate fanboy?
Sniveling and sweaty, he would bring up some of his favorite memories of his interviewees – pretending they were questions by prefacing them with “Remember…?”
And when the interviewee said he did in fact remember, Farley would blurt out “That was AWESOME.”
“You remember Beatle Mania? Where those four guys went on stage and looked like you and then they played Beatles songs and….”
“Yeah, I heard about that.”
“That was AWESOME.”
But with the eternally overreaching Obama Administration, I am starting to feel more and more like the Anti-Farley.
This Administration issues executive fiat after executive fiat – piling the power grabs skyward.
And again and again, the allegedly opposition Republican Party – emplaced by We the People in control of the Legislative Branch – acts outraged and issues stern press releases. But does nothing to actually rein them in.
The President keeps encroaching on Congress’ lawmaking turf – and the lawmakers keep ceding the field.
Leaving us Less Government types to turn to one another and ask “Remember when it was Congress that made law? And defended their Constitutional prerogative to do so? That was AWESOME.”
President Obama and every one of his Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards are working non-stop as stealth, unelected, unaccountable “law”makers.
Likely the biggest Obama Administration power grabs have come from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Because they have so much more of the still-private sector to grab.
Because the FCC has set its sites on the Internet. Which – unlike just about every other economic sector – didn’t really have an agency (or eight) assigned to crush regulate it.
Back at the Internet’s dawn – during the Bill Clinton Administration – two unbelievably unleashing government decisions were made. The World Wide Web was privatized – and deemed to be basically regulation-free.
As always happens when the government doesn’t “help” – the Web has exploded. Becoming an always-evolving, ever-expanding, free-speech-free-market Xanadu.
President Obama could not let that stand. So he sicced on the Internet the FCC. Which is supposed to an independent agency – free from political arm-twisting.
President Obama’s FCC happily obliged. And unilaterally declared the Internet subject to 1934 law. Written for…land line telephones – and railroads. Seems eminently applicable, yes?
Of course the FCC has by no means stopped there. Behold their abuse of the merger approval process.
When any two or more companies want to become one – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department both have to give their approval. If those companies have anything to do with anything communications – the FCC piles in and piles on.
As does the FTC and Justice – when the FCC goes into merger-approval-mode, they grab their “law”-writing pens. And impose countless a la carte regulations they could never get through Congress. All three agencies take their licks – but the FCC usually hits the hardest.
These are called merger “conditions” or “concessions.” But that’s like saying I conceded my wallet to the guy with the gun and the mask. The merging companies are government hostages – to get out they have to give in. These are merger capitulations.
(T)he FCC is largely free to ask firms for an almost unlimited range of concessions in exchange for favorable outcomes in matters before the commission. Such rent-seeking is business as usual.
In the merger context, the only practical limit on what the commission can request is however much the parties are willing to give up before walking away from the deal.
The FCC almost always takes full advantage.
- The soon-to-be single entity must expand high speed fiber Internet access to at least 12.5 million customer locations, E-rate eligible schools and libraries within the next four years.
- AT&T must offer broadband access to low-income consumers at discounted rates. AT&T responded it will start with plans of 3Mbps service at $5 per month and 10Mbps for $10 per month.
These two capitulations will cost a LOT of money. These exorbitant costs will of course be passed along to AT&T and DirecTV customers – in the form of much higher monthly rates. Because “pro-consumer” – or something.
- AT&T cannot write its own rules on data caps and providing access to online video, circling back into the tangled web that is net neutrality.
The FCC mandated a la carte Net Neutrality – in case the courts dump the whole-hog-grab. Something the Commission also did in the Comcast-NBC merger.
And remember this?
When the FCC Chair turned his law-writing pen into a waiter’s order-taking pen. Allowing huge President-Obama-and-Democrat-donating Google to order customized a la carte changes to the grab.
Fellow bandwidth-uber-hog Netflix is also in Waiter Wheeler’s section. And also gets to order way off the menu.
So – merging companies now have to get Obama’s cronies’ approval, too. Which they will grant – in exchange for self-tailored capitulations, of course.
Netflix Inc. will support Charter Communications Inc.’s $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. in exchange for free access to Charter’s customers….
To quote another Saturday Night Live skit: “Well isn’t that special.”
So in the Age of Obama – the unelected regulatory agencies get to write “laws.” Their Crony Socialist donors get to write “laws.”
The only people who don’t get to write (actual) laws – are the Representatives elected and Constitutionally-mandated to do so.
All of which is anything but awesome.
[Originally published atRedState]