Verizon Wireless Rightfully Says the FCC Can't Decide How Bandwidth is Paid


Must the government force internet providers to let all of their customers use the internet equally, without discriminating against certain websites or by charging more for those using more bandwidth – also known as net neutrality? Verizon doesn't think so, and is bringing the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) before courts to challenge this rule enacted in 2010, arguing that the government agency has stepped beyond its regulatory powers and has violated the company's constitutional rights.

What the D.C. U.S. Court of Appeals will decide remains highly speculative. On one hand, the court ruled against the FCC rule twice. The first time was in 2010, when internet and cable provider Comcast was able to show that the FCC lacked the authority to forbid a slowing in traffic from file-sharing website BitTorrent.

In 2011, the same court also ruled in favor of Comcast, whom the FCC accused of discriminating the Tennis Channel by making it a premium choice, unlike the Golf Channel. However, Comcast won only because of a technicality (i.e. the FCC didn't bring enough proof of the alleged discrimination).

On the other hand, the D.C. Court of Appeals has also ruled in favor of the FCC. Still in 2011, the court said that the FCC has the authority to make wireless carriers negotiate reasonable roaming rates among each other. Verizon lost that battle.

And in 2013, the Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the FCC, saying, "In cases where Congress has left ambiguous the outlines of a regulatory agency's jurisdiction, the court must defer to the administering agency's construction of the statute so long as it is permissible." In other words, government agencies are supposed to determine the extent of their own power.

If this doesn't sound scary to you, then nothing will. Since governments and their agents are always looking for more power, letting them decide their extent can only mean less liberty and other "unintended" consequences. For example, if the FCC is right to force net neutrality, then internet costs will likely increase for everyone since bandwidth is not free.

Ditto for cable: by interfering in mutually agreed contracts, people will end up paying more since more channels are forced into a package. It also opens a Pandora Box for whichever TV producer to cry discrimination in order to be included in a cable package.

For the sake of liberty and free enterprise, let's hope the D.C. Court of Appeals will rule in favor of Verizon this time. They are a private company; therefore they should decide how to charge their services. Having the FCC hold a Sword of Damocles over their head can only discourage them to do business, as the Paycheck Fairness Act is likely to discourage the employment of women.