The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Next Steps for Net Neutrality

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact

With the recent announcement by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski of his impending departure, the new commission chair will take charge of what has been called in The Atlantic Wire as “one of the more powerful regulatory bodies in the United States government.”  Among the first trials the new chair will face is the upcoming court decision in the Verizon challenge to the FCC’s net neutrality rules. On April 9, 2013, a panel discussion focused on the next steps for net neutrality.  Moderated by Seton Motley, president of Less Government, the discussion included Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge; Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment; Sascha Meinrath, vice president of the New America Foundation and director of the Open Technology Institute; and Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies for the Competitive Enterprise Institute as panelists representing both sides of the debate over net neutrality. There was much disagreement and a lively debate among the panelists over whether the FCC acted appropriately when it imposed the net neutrality rules without congressional authority, what net neutrality actually means in the context of the Open Rule, and whether the data available supports the need for more regulatory rulings on Internet services by the agency.  However, there was general agreement by all the panelists that the debate is about more than just the net neutrality rules; it was about how expansive the FCC’s regulatory authority should be over the Internet. The court case on the FCC’s net neutrality rules may not be decided until this fall, yet the panel discussion included what the FCC’s next move will be should the rules be overturned by the D.C. Circuit Court, and whether or not existing communications law is relevant to the exchange of information today and in the future.  Should the FCC’s net neutrality rules be overturned by the courts, it will be up to the new FCC chair to determine the agency’s response. There is little doubt that the future of Internet governance in the U.S. rests on the court's decision.  If the court rules against the FCC, it is conceivable that the commission will appeal the ruling or try to reclassify the Internet as a Title II communications service.  If the court finds in favor of the FCC, it is possible that the commission will take further steps to expand its authority.  And, as regulatory burdens mount, the private sector communications industry could increasingly be subjected to a “Mother, May I” regime for each system change it wishes to pursue.  And, Mother (aka: the FCC) may just say “no.”


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