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Congress tells FCC reclassification is above their paygrade

Seventy-four House Democrats and thirty-seven Senate Republicans wrote letters (here, here) to the FCC today that essentially told the FCC that their announced plans to deem broadband a common carrier service are over-reaching and out-of-bounds.

  • In Washington-speak, the letters communicated that the FCC is trying to decide an issue that is "above their paygrade" to decide. 

In turn, these letters appear to have prompted the Chairmen of the FCC's House and Senate authorizing committees and subcommittees to announce today that they will hold meetings with key stakeholders to discuss updating the Communications Act legislatively -- another strong message to the FCC that Congress makes communications policy, not unelected commissioners at the FCC.

The clear political message to the FCC here is that they have wrongly put the cart before the horse, and that they must seek a "solid bi-partisan political foundation" for U.S. broadband policy... before they can achieve their desired "solid legal foundation" for the FCC. 

  • Rep. Gene Green (TX) clearly explained the political significance of the House letter from 74 House Democrats to the FCC in his press release:
    • "This letter clearly shows it is not a partisan issue. A large number of Democrats have reservations about such a significant regulatory shift and the impacts it will have on jobs and investments." 

If the FCC respects Congress and understands its authority comes from Congress, the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, not a simple FCC majority, the FCC will postpone its plans: to deem broadband a common carrier service and to implement its proposed Open Internet regulations -- until Congress grants it the express authority to do so.     

The lesson here is that successful communications policy comes from doing the right thing in the right way -- meaning the FCC must respect the appropriate constitutional, legislative, legal and adminstrative processes that every other independent regulatory agency must respect.

Process matters. Process works. Process produces legitimacy, predictability, and ultimately success for the American people.