Democracy & Technology Blog Waxman to the rescue?

Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) of the House Energy & Commerce Committee is floating draft legislation that would ensure the Federal Communications Commission can, for two years, intervene if broadband providers block or unreasonably interfere with access to lawful content, applications, services, or devices utilizing the Internet.
Although Waxman drafted his proposal without significant Republican participation, sources report he dialogued with all stakeholders and acted fairly and transparently to fashion a compromise that might end the stalemate — at least for the time being — and possibly pass a floor vote.
The Waxman proposal deserves a look for two reasons. One, it is a vehicle for elected officials rather than unelected bureaucrats to establish high-level policy that has a significant effect on investment, innovation and jobs in in the high tech economy. Two, it establishes a clear preference for targeted and limited FCC authority instead of open-ended jurisdiction that could allow the FCC to suffocate broadband with legacy public utility regulation.
The only reason the Internet is the success it is today is because under the Clinton and Bush administrations the FCC refused to regulate it.
Most Americans are satisfied with the status quo. According to one recent poll released by Broadband for America, 75% of respondents said that “the Internet is currently working well,” and 55% said that “the federal government should not regulate the Internet at all.”
But there are some key “progressive” constituencies — such as Free Press and — who still entertain ambitious and controversial agendas and believe the stars aligned in 2008 and there may never be a better chance to seize what they want — or, what they feel they are entitled to.
Although the Waxman proposal is a far cry from that, nevertheless it is seriously contrary to the type of pro-growth, pro-jobs initiative that a potential Republican majority might embrace.
The Waxman proposal would effect a brief cease-fire, but it wouldn’t end the debate. It would perpetuate it. It would establish an awful precedent. Still, a cease-fire might unleash some current investment and job creation which are sorely needed to promote short-term economic growth.
In an ideal world, the Waxman proposal would be a non-starter. But in a world in which there are 3 out of 5 votes on the FCC for net neutrality regulation, I hate to say it, the Waxman proposal deserves some serious consideration.
Unless, that is, Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives and can move swiftly to pass a law preventing the FCC from spending any funds in consideration of job- and growth-killing net neutrality regulation.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.