On Thursday, the FCC voted three to two in favor of net neutrality. The Internet will now be regulated as a common carrier service under Title II of the Communications Act. The news rules will make it illegal for service providers to show a preference for certain sites above others. Ostensibly, it will maintain a more open and equal web.
But as former presidential candidate Ron Paul points out, this decision was made by an unelected body which has just granted itself broad new regulatory powers. This echoes concerns expressed by many service providers prior to the FCC’s decision, that new regulations could place undue burdens on the industry.
“Without the vote of Congress, the people’s branch of government – a federal agency now claims the power to regulate the Internet,” Paul writes in a post for the Ron Paul Institute.
According to Paul, the FCC’s decision “represents the largest regulatory power grab in recent history,” and one that could have serious consequences for any administration wishing to quell dissent.
“Federal regulation could also open the door to de facto censorship of ideas perceived as threatening to the political class,” Paul writes.
— Ron Paul (@RonPaul) February 26, 2015
Paul’s words may ring counter to the cheers of many who see the decision as a landmark victory for an open Internet. But his point is a necessary one. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes, now’s the time to ensure that the FCC doesn’t overstep its bounds.
One area to keep an eye on is a “general conduct rule.” Many see this aspect of the new order as too vague, allowing the FCC to prevent service providers from taking any action which “hurts consumers, competition, or innovation.” Without clear-cut language, it remains impossible for ISPs to know what practices, exactly, they should avoid.
Such a vague rule could also allow give an unfair advantage to companies who could wriggle their way into the FCC’s confidence.
Many are waiting for the 300 page order to become widely available so they can take a closer look.
“One bright spot,” Paul writes, “…is that federal regulations making it more difficult to use the Internet will cause more Americans to join our movement for liberty, peace, and prosperity.”