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“Openness” and Transparency Not Exactly Virtues at the FCC

02/10/2015

At the same time President Obama and FCC Chairman Wheeler push massive regulation and government controls to protect an ‘open Internet’ their secret plan for doing so is being held from the public.

by Karen Kerrigan-

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet near the end of February. Nobody gets to see the plan before the vote, except FCC Commissioners. This is the way the FCC operates, and it’s not right. If Internet regulation is as important as the FCC and President Obama say it is, why not make the plan public? What ever happened to the “most transparent Administration in history?”

A 2014 Center for Regulatory Solutions survey found that 72% of Americans say regulations are “created in a closed and secretive process,” and 84% said that “too many special interest” control that process. Nearly 70% believe regulations are created by “out-of-touch people who are trying to push a political agenda.” It’s no wonder why the public feels this way. At the same time President Obama and FCC Chairman Wheeler push massive regulation and government controls to protect an ‘open Internet’ their secret plan for doing so is being held from the public.

Transparency is the most effective solution to keep regulators accountable and boost public trust in government.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has called for posting the Obama-Wheeler plan online. In a media statement, Pai said: “The FCC should be as open and transparent as the Internet itself and post the entire document on its website.”  Wow, how refreshing.

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@AjitPaiFCC: “Here is President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I wish the public could see what’s inside.” pic.twitter.com/bwwAsk8ZiB  February 6, 2015

Entrepreneurs take a beating under Internet Regulation.

Pai outlined key concerns about the plan’s damaging impact on consumer costs, broadband speed, competition and innovation – all of which touch small businesses and entrepreneurs. Precisely as SBE Council feared and warned regarding the affects of heavy-handed, monopoly regulation of the Internet on entrepreneurs, Pai specified those concerns in his media release:

“The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market. As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.”

Read SBE Council’s “Open Internet” comments, which argue against “Title II” monopoly regulation of the Internet.

Pai also said the plan is an illegal power grab and the American public is being misled about what is in the plan. Pai will continue to share more information this week, so follow him on Twitter: @AjitPaiFCC

As I said in a SBE Council media statement following FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Op-ed in Wired (where he announced his regulatory plan): “It’s a sad day for innovation and entrepreneurship.” This action was taken under political pressure from the White House. President Obama called for “the toughest rules possible” following the mid-term elections. Wheeler delivered.

SBE Council & CRS have consistently argued that regulatory action by the FCC is not warranted because, first and foremost, there’s been no market failure requiring such action. The “net neutrality” movement has been built on a baseless theory that broadband service providers will somehow hamper, reduce or eliminate access to, or prohibitively raise costs of certain information or content on the Internet unless government stops them. The facts that current broadband service and ongoing innovations have occurred under a light-regulatory-touch regime, and that service providers have no incentives to undermine service to anger their own customers, matter not to those who advocate for invasive and destructive government regulation.

See SBE Council’s “Regulating the Internet: Big Impact on Small Business.”

What’s next? For certain, the new rules will be challenged in the courts once approved by the FCC at the end of February. Until then, CRS and SBE Council will continue our fight to stop the secret plan to regulate the Internet.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. CRS is a project of SBE Council.