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[ NNSquad ] Dueling broadband policies


As the matter of the Comcast petitions (which was mentioned repeatedly at the Pittsburgh hearing) comes to a head at the FCC, there's a jurisdictional question that I haven't seen asked yet and which may be key to everything.

Suppose that Congress makes a policy statement (and includes it in a law), and then the FCC makes a policy statement. Which one takes precedence? Why, the one drafted by Congress, of course.

Well, it turns out that Congress did make a very specific broadband policy statement when it passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It's at 47 USC 230(b), and it says:


It is the policy of the United States?

(1) to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media;

(2) to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation;

(3) to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet and other interactive computer services;

(4) to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children?s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material; and

(5) to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer. 


This policy statement by Congress -- which, unlike FCC Chairman Michael Powell's "four freedoms" policy statement, was not explicitly declared to be "nonbinding" -- trumps any contrary policy statement made by the FCC. 

How could inside-the-Beltway lobbyists such as Free Press ask that Michael Powell's rough policy ideas -- unvetted by a rulemaking process and directly contradicting the statute -- take precedence over Congress' explicitly binding policy? Do we need to wait for a court to state the (seemingly obvious) answer?

--Brett Glass

    [ Well, shucks.  Regardless of the particulars of that
      jurisdictional argument itself, the very concept of such
      possible jurisdictional disputes could be viewed as validating
      those groups who feel that pursuing legislatively mandated
      regulatory changes at the Congressional level is a useful
                -- Lauren Weinstein
                   NNSquad Moderator ]