Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell told CNBC today that he was shocked by the federal agency’s rush to regulate the Internet as a vote looms on a 332 page plan that remains secret.
“The order goes far beyond protecting net neutrality which was the original purpose and in fact introduces a new regulatory regime for the Internet,” said Powell, adding “I think it’s fair to say we are shocked.”
Powell downplayed concerns made by net neutrality advocates about ISPs blocking or throttling content, asserting, “They’ve never done any of the things that net neutrality purports to be protecting.”
“For three decades we’ve been retreating from this regulatory model in virtually every space of communication and we’re gonna now apply that regime to the most dynamic, innovative, free willing network in world history,” added Powell, explaining his shock at President Obama appearing in a YouTube video to direct the FCC to implement the new regulatory measures.
The heart of the net neutrality issue boils down to growing opposition over current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to place broadband providers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, turning the Internet into a utility and potentially opening the door for onerous government regulation and censorship.
Critics fear the move would put unaccountable bureaucrats in control of the web, a “federal takeover” that would suffocate competition, innovation and investment.
The 332 page plan to do this remains secret just two days before a vote which is widely expected to green light the proposal. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, as well as FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly have called for the public release of the plan.
Billionaire Mark Cuban spoke even more plainly in opposition to net neutrality last week, telling a conference that federal efforts to reclassify the Internet under Title II will “fuck everything up”.
Cuban asserted that handing a group of “political appointees at the FCC” control over the Internet was a frightening prospect.
“Having them overseeing the Internet scares the shit out of me,” he said.
According to Cuban and other net neutrality opponents, the supposed need to restrict Internet providers from throttling access to certain websites which use more bandwidth isn’t even an issue anymore and has been amicably resolved between the companies themselves.
Michael Powell said that the FCC ruling was likely to be appealed as part of a process that could take two to five years to be resolved, adding that Congress should be called upon to fix the issue instead and that Republicans have already introduced measures to do so.