The recently adopted and released Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which returned light touch FCC regulation to the net, brought a scathing, almost hysterical statement of dissent from minority Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
Her characterization of the rolling back of net neutrality rules as a “rash decision” based on a “corrupt process” is a mere prelude to an all-out assault on the entire order. In her words, it puts the FCC “on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”
Rosenworcel’s hand-wringing continues with her fears that this “misguided action” will give ISPs “the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. They will have the power to discriminate and favor…companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road. This is not good. Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online.”
Her screed continues unabated, as she writes that “this decision and the process that brought us to this point is ugly. It’s ugly in the cavalier disregard this agency has demonstrated to the public, the contempt it has shown for citizens who speak up, and the disdain it has for popular opinion. This is not acceptable. It is a stain on the FCC and this proceeding.” She threatens future fights in Congress and the courts, and “wherever we need to go.”
Rosenworcel also criticizes the “foul” comment record in this proceeding which, as she correctly notes, includes two million comments with stolen identities and half a million with Russian addresses. But is she opining that sinister forces swayed the FCC’s decision, or the FCC itself falsified comments? At least one thing is clear: She is not accusing Chairman Pai of Russian collusion – which is about the only charge that she has not made.
We may not remember exactly, but we don’t recall this kind of strident, accusatory rhetoric coming from minority Commissioners in 2015, when President Obama pushed the Tom Wheeler-led FCC to change almost 20 years of light touch regulation to the heavily regulated net neutrality regime.
Whether this turnabout will lead to continued fair play, as well as the intended increases in innovation, investment, growth and competition, remains to be seen. But Democrats and others throughout the political spectrum might consider giving the order a chance, before screaming hysterically that the internet as we know it will soon be dead.