FCC Drive For ‘Digital Equity’ Threatens Internet Freedom

In an unprecedented move, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote on a measure that could dramatically alter the landscape of American internet freedom. According to a report by Peter Gietl published Wednesday by Blaze Media, this act, disguised as an attempt to promote equity, grants the FCC sweeping powers over internet service providers (ISPs). The so-called “Preventing Digital Discrimination Order” could have far-reaching implications for innovation, privacy and the free flow of information online.

The initiative arises from section 60506 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act 2021, initially aiming to boost federal investment in the nation’s internet infrastructure. However, critics, including FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, warn that the proposed rules extend beyond mere investment.

Carr highlights the administration’s directive for the FCC to micromanage aspects of ISPs’ operations, from capital allocation to consumer pricing and service terms. Carr argues that such control echoes a bygone era of heavy regulation, drawing a parallel to the New Deal’s grip on the Ma Bell telephone monopoly.

The Biden administration’s approach has been criticized for adopting a command-and-control regulatory style that undermines free market principles. The plan allegedly enables the FCC to regulate “actions and omissions,” creating a regulatory catch-22 where ISPs might find themselves liable regardless of their decisions. Moreover, the plan doesn’t confine its reach to ISPs but extends to landlords, construction crews, and even banks, signaling an expansive federal intrusion into the private sector.

The conservative viewpoint holds that such an overreach is antithetical to the American ethos of limited government and free enterprise. Proponents of this perspective argue that the internet has thrived under a light-touch regulatory framework, fostering innovation and consumer choice. Imposing a heavy-handed federal mandate is seen as a step backward, potentially stifling growth and infringing on the freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.

Critics are also alarmed at the potential for this order to resurrect net neutrality through the backdoor. While net neutrality’s proponents argue for equal treatment of internet traffic, opponents contend it places undue constraints on ISPs, hampers technological progress, and imposes hidden costs on consumers.

By preventing ISPs from charging content providers for heavy data usage, net neutrality effectively shifts the financial burden of network expansion onto average consumers.

Furthermore, the FCC’s move is perceived as ideological, with roots in a philosophy of government control incompatible with free-market capitalism. The plan’s expansive view of regulatory authority over private industry is unprecedented in the agency’s history and strikes at the heart of the competitive and innovative broadband industry.

Congressional Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have urged the FCC to reconsider, emphasizing that the proposal deviates significantly from congressional intent and threatens to undermine the nation’s broadband industry’s competitiveness.

The FCC’s proposal raises serious concerns about the future of internet freedom in the United States. The plan’s broad scope, potential for regulatory overreach, and departure from free-market principles have drawn sharp criticism from industry experts, policymakers, and consumers alike.