Tag: Federal Communications Commission

They’re Coming for Your Bits

For the past few years, a debate has been raging over net neutrality. While, in principle, I’m sympathetic to the idea of a neutral net, I’ve always suspected there was a secondary agenda, that “net neutrality” was a backdoor for something more sinister. It is well known the power that be hate the open internet, hate anonymous commenting and posting, despise free speech and would love to have officially approved channels of information.

Well, the mask is torn, at least a little bit:

Proponents of network neutrality regulation are cheering the announcement this week that the Federal Communications Commission will seek to reclassify Internet Service Providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The move would trigger broad regulatory powers over Internet providers—some of which, such as authority to impose price controls, the FCC has said it will “forbear” from asserting—in the name of “preserving the open internet.”

Sanchez goes on to point out the FCC is contemplating a broad action in response to … a very nebulous situation. It’s not clear exactly what menace is so dire they need to respond to it immediately. It is clear, however, that moving toward a regulatory model will give them unprecedented power, as warned by … um … one of the FCC commissioners:

First, President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works. It’s an overreach that will let a Washington bureaucracy, and not the American people, decide the future of the online world. It’s no wonder that net neutrality proponents are already bragging that it will turn the FCC into the “Department of the Internet.” For that reason, if you like dealing with the IRS, you are going to love the President’s plan.

Second, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will increase consumers’ monthly broadband bills. The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband. Indeed, states have already begun discussions on how they will spend the extra money. These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.

Third, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will mean slower broadband for American consumers. The plan contains a host of new regulations that will reduce investment in broadband networks. That means slower Internet speeds. It also means that many rural Americans will have to wait longer for access to quality broadband.

Fourth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will hurt competition and innovation and move us toward a broadband monopoly. 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. We shouldn’t bring Ma Bell back to life in this dynamic, digital age.

Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, is promising us that they won’t apply outmoded regulatory models to the internet. But one thing a decade of blogging has taught me: never take that sort of thing on trust. If the FCC has the power to do anything — control prices, restrict technology, regulate providers — they will use it. And a good reason to be suspicious is that they’re trying to keep their plans a secret:

But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the proposal, which is 332 pages long, is that it is being kept secret from the public—and it will remain secret until after a vote later this month in which it is likely to pass on a 3-2 basis, with Wheeler and the FCC’s two Democratically appointed commissioners outvoting the two Republican-appointed commissioners.

The commissioners can see the plan before they cast their votes. But the rest of us can’t. Lobbyists will likely be able to discover key details affecting their clients, and some details will leak out in the press. But the full text of the plan won’t be made public at all before the vote.

Wheeler previously opposed such a move and it’s generally felt that he came under immense pressure from the White House to do this. That is, our “most transparent administration in history” is pressuring the FCC to engage in massive regulatory expansion completely in secret that could give them a stunning amount of power over one of the most important communication networks in history.

Congress needs to act immediately. The President is usurping their power to decide net neutrality regulations. They need to kill this power grab before it’s enacted. This isn’t a partisan issue. If the government gets this kind of regulatory hold of the internet, we are all screwed — liberal, conservative, libertarian, monarchist or upside-down pineapple cakeist.

Fucking Brilliant

Another big win for SCOTUS:

Broadcast television networks won an important constitutional fight Thursday when the Supreme Court said government regulators imposed unfair punishment for isolated profanity and sexual content during evening “prime time” hours.

In an 8-0 vote, justices concluded the Federal Communications Commission cannot enforce its current policies against “fleeting” expletives and nudity on over-the-air programs, both live and scripted. The agency had levied hefty fines on all four major broadcasters beginning nearly a decade ago.

The court’s ruling was narrow, as the justices declined to address whether the regulations violate free-speech protections guaranteed under the First Amendment. But it does establish important guidelines the government must follow when monitoring explicit content on the airwaves.

The decision isn’t as broad as I’d like. But it’s a step in the right direction against the FCC. This is a rebuke, hopefully one that will grow stronger in the future. Broadcast TV is rapidly becoming obsolete. But I expect the FCC to try to textend its talons to online content.

Rush to Censor

I thought we’d reached the nadir of the Sandra Fluke thing with Mark Steyn pontificating when he clearly had not bothered to read her testimony (note to Mark: she never talked about her sex life. I mean, at all). But … as always … there is no debate in this country on which the Right can possibly be as stupid as the Left.

First, there is Gloria Allred, who is determined not to let a controversy pass without making a fool of herself. She’s threatening libel lawsuits and prosecution under an obscure law that makes it a crime to impugn a woman’s chastity. Seriously. Remember when such laws were seen as a holdover from a less-enlightened time? There were times in high school when I would have killed for someone to impugn my chastity. Just a little bit. One of the whole points of this debate — and in fact the feminist movement — is that women should not be ashamed of their sexuality.

But — and I am as surprised by this as you — Gloria Allred has not made the stupidest utterance on this matter. No, that took the combined talents of not one, not two, but three raving neo-feminist loons.

Limbaugh doesn’t just call people names. He promotes language that deliberately dehumanizes his targets. Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, he creates rhetorical frames — and the bigger the lie, the more effective — inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans. His longtime favorite term for women, “femi-Nazi,” doesn’t even raise eyebrows anymore, an example of how rhetoric spreads when unchallenged by coarsened cultural norms.

Wow. You went for the Nazi reference right off the bat. I might have held back a bit before uncorking that one.

I do want to take a moment to talk about “femi-Nazi”. I was a regular Limbaugh listener for most of the 90’s and still occasionally tune him in. I have never heard him use the word “femi-Nazi”. The only time I am aware, second-hand, of him using it was when he was criticizing feminists for lamenting the decline in the number of abortions and opposing very common-sense regulations. His point was that anyone who saw a decline in the number of deaths of what was arguably a human life deserved such a moniker. I’m not sure I disagree.

But, surprisingly, that’s not the stupidest thing in the op-ed. After calling on Clear Channel to dump Limbaugh, they say:

If Clear Channel won’t clean up its airways, then surely it’s time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh’s show in fact using their licenses “in the public interest?”

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh’s radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh’s show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn’t carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints.

Wow. You will never find a better distillation of the radical feminist mindset. They believe the FCC should be looking over all broadcasts to make sure they fulfill some nebulous “public interest”. Anything that does not meet the public interest — public interest as defined by Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan — should be silenced.

They later accuse Limbaugh of “hiding behind the First Amendment”. But that’s what the First Amendment is for. It exists to shield controversial speakers from the heavy hands of know-it-all hyper-moralists like these three. Rush Limbaugh isn’t hiding behind the First Amendment. All of us are standing proudly on top of it, especially the feminists whose early calls for women’s liberation were seen as immoral and dangerous. Do you think any of these women’s early activism would have been seen as being in the public interest? Their view is so radical that it provoked Mark Randazza, who can’t stand Limbaugh, to call them crazy.

I have no problem with boycotts or pressure or calling someone out. The First Amendment does not shield you from the consequences of speech; it merely blocks government action. Calling someone an asshole is not oppression, no matter how much Kirk Cameron thinks it is. Even firing someone for speech is not oppression, no much matter how much Dr. Laura thinks it is. In a free country, people can respond to speech they don’t like by refusing to listen, by firing someone’s ass or by simply saying, “Fuck you, asshole.” But they can not respond by having the government pull the plug on a mic.

Oh, there’s one last note:

This isn’t political.

Like hell it’s not. While it’s true some feminists have called out liberals for their misogynistic statements about conservatives, those call have never come with this kind of furor and intensity. Nor have the radicals had any compunction about lumping even the mildest pro-life law with the worst and calling all of it a “war on women”. So spare me your high-minded calls for civility.

This is not about apolitical cleansing of the airwaves. The substance of the debate matters. What has really fired up these women is that this garbage as been slung at a woman calling for free birth control. If a woman testifying for abortion restrictions were called these names or worse, we would not see his kind of op-ed.

I’ve said before that I think Rush went over the line on this one. But this is not the first time this has happened in American history. It’s not the first time it’s happened this year. The unfortunate side of free speech is that sometimes people say vile and ignorant things. But the alternative is to live under the kind of society these three idiots want: one in which speech has to serve a public interest, one in which lawsuits color the sky yellow, one in which people are afraid of speaking their minds. What Rush Limbaugh said was wrong. But using the government to silence him would be even worse.