Based on the latest best arguments this week from both the FCC and broadband petitioners, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is very likely to partially stay the FCC Open Internet Order’s reclassification of broadband as a Title II service and imposition of a new Internet conduct standard — in the coming weeks.
Author: Scott Cleland
Most have missed entirely the broader significance of the EC-DGComp’s laser-focused Google Statement of Objections (that charge Google is dominant in search and is abusing that dominance in Google Shopping by self-dealing via preferencing Google content over competitors’ content) in the broader context of the EU’s new “platform neutrality” principle to advance a European Single Digital Market.
In the coming weeks, expect the D.C. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court to grant a partialstay, of only the FCC’s Title II reclassification of broadband and its new “Internet conduct standard” (not the FCC’s net neutrality prohibitions of blocking, throttling or paid prioritization), even though stay requests normally have a low probability of success, because petitioners must convince the court that they are likely to win on the merits and that the opposed action will cause irreparable harm.
The US-EU “competition” of protectionist digital industrial policies — U.S. Title II net neutrality vs. the EU’s emerging “platform neutrality” plans — creates an ironic backdrop to negotiations for the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) “free” trade agreement. Heightening the irony, the Obama Administration, not the European Commission, has been the protectionist digital industrial policy leader, trailblazing the political path for the EU’s Single Digital Market to follow.
Think of the FCC, unilaterally self-armed with the “strongest possible rules” of Title II 1934 monopoly telephone regulation, as a Washington backwater “kangaroo court,” where innocent communicators can be hauled before a mock court system where normal due process, rule of law, and justice may not apply.
The collateral damage is beginning to pile up from the FCC’s February decision to trigger Title II telephone utility regulation of the Internet. Long called the “nuclear” option, the FCC preemptively triggered Title II Internet regulation ostensibly to prevent potential new net neutrality problems, which the FCC admits it can’t yet identify.
Expect the FCC’s new Open Internet Order’s assertion of Title II authority ultimately to be rejected in court (90%), because of its core illegal confiscatory purpose and its serial ends-justify-the-means trampling of due process.
The FCC’s Title II legal defense is a “modern” day version of “the Emperor has no clothes” fable, where the vain FCC confidently parades in public clothed in the legal fabric that utopian legal alchemists have convinced the FCC is invisible only to those who are “hopelessly stupid” or “unfit for their positions.” Sadly, this emperor (the FCC) has no clothes (sustainable legal case).
On February 26th, the FCC executed President Obama’s call to “implement the strongest possible rules” to regulate the Internet as a telephone utility under “Title II” of the Telecommunications Act.
Legally, the result of this “reclassification” was for President Obama and the FCC to assert regulatory jurisdiction over the Internet ecosystem, creating a de facto American “Digital [Internet] Single Market” industrial policy, like the European Commission is in the process of creating for the European Union.
President Obama recently criticized the European Union for pursuing an antitrust case against Google over plans to establish a European Digital Single Market, and for its trade positions in the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The FCC’s Open Internet Order, which reclassified the commercial Internet as a Title II utility, is very likely (80%) in the end, to be overturned in court – for a third time.
The FCC’s legal theory and many core assumptions are so aggressive, it’s clear that the FCC expects, and needs, continual and maximal deference from the court to prevail. The FCC also requires the courts to view the FCC’s most aggressive assertion of unbounded authority ever, as a mere administrative interpretation of ambiguous law, and not a political bypass of Congress and the 1996 Telecom Act.
Last November, President Obama effectively abandoned America’s longstanding free trade Internet policy established by President Clinton, in favor of a protectionist Internet industrial policy to benefit America’s national champions, Silicon Valley, under the guise of “net neutrality” policy.
“Fixing” what’s not broken. Radically changing what everyone likes. Abandoning what works exceptionally well for what’s failed miserably in the past, and forcing outdated regulations on what is the most modern part of the economy.
A bird in the hand is still worth two in the bush.
This age old wisdom has survived to warn against human nature — to be overly confident of keeping what one has while risking everything when grasping for much more.
The FCC imagines it doesn’t need Congress, but it does.
In just the second week of this new Congress, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune proposed draft legislation that would provide the FCC with the permanent net neutrality enforcement authority the FCC says it needs.
In directing the Wireless bureau to make two substantial, Commission-level decisions today, without the full Commission vote that was requested by Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, (concerning the release of the annual wireless competition report and regulating cellular data roaming rates), the FCC Chairman unnecessarily undermined the legitimacy of the FCC at a critical time the FCC needs all the actual and perceived legitimacy it can get.