Two commissioners, who dissented from the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to adopt ‘net neutrality’ regulations, warn that the Internet’s new status as a public utility will lead to new Internet taxes. The vote to impose these new regulations fell along party lines–with the three Democrat commissioners, including the chairman, voting for the change and the two Republican commissioners voting against it. The FCC released its Net Neutrality Order Thursday.
Republican commissioner Ajit Pai wrote in his dissent:
The Internet has become a powerful force for freedom. So it is sad to witness the FCC’s unprecedented attempt to replace that freedom with government control….This Order imposes intrusive government regulations that won’t work to solve a problem that doesn’t exist using legal authority the FCC doesn’t have.
Pai added that both Democrats and Republicans, with the passage of the “Telecommunications Act of 1996, enshrined the principle that the Internet should be ‘vibrant and competitive free market . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation.’” And, he continued, every chairman, Republican or Democrat, since has allowed the internet to grow free from “utility-style regulation.”
Fellow Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly states that re-classifying the Internet as a public utility is “a monumental and unlawful power grab.”
Both commissioners agree that this re-classification as a “Title II utility,” putting them in the same category as cell phone providers, will ultimately mean new internet taxes being imposed.
Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler counters that the regulations specifically do not impose a new tax. The FCC went so far as to release a report titled “Open Internet Order: Separating Fact from Fiction,” which states that “Nothing in the Order imposes or authorizes new taxes or fees.”
However, Pai and O’Rielly, in their dissents, write that with the re-classification of the Internet, providers will be subject to the Universal Service contributions, just like other communications companies. They both find it disingenuous to hide behind the notion that the new fees will not be a direct tax on consumers simply because they pass through the Internet providers.
To this point, the commission simply notes in its Fact from Fiction document: “With respect to Universal Service, the Order does not impose mandatory contribution assessments, but simply allows a current, separate proceeding on how to reform universal service contributions to proceed.” In other words: the fee is coming; we just won’t decide what it should be now.
Pai further highlights that the new categorization as a utility means state and local government will now be able to tax Internet providers at utility company rates, which again will be passed on to the consumer.
The FCC “net neutrality” order does not directly impose new Internet taxes at this time…true, but it opens the door for new ones almost certain to come down the road.
Some Internet providers are expected to appeal the FCC ruling in federal court.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom