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We Want the Airwaves (and all the pipes)

Logo of the United States Federal Communicatio...
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Past as Prologue….
In 1941, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made what one could call its first big splash on the national media scene when it released its “Report on Chain Broadcasting,” a document which led to “NBC v. US,” a Supreme Court case that allowed the FCC could operate in a manner, declared SC Justice Frank Murphy in his response to the decision…

“… we exceed our competence when we gratuitously bestow upon an agency power which the Congress has not granted. Since that is what the Court in substance does today, I dissent.”

Ring any bells?

To bluntly paraphrase Justice Murphy: “We just gave them control where they have no business sticking their nose. Can someone tell me why we should grant them this kind of bullshit?”

Fast forward to 2010. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (who turned a notorious “wardrobe malfunction” into a federal affair), along with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, are once again deciding the FCC should be allowed to exceed the Commission’s legislative boundaries.

Genachowski continues in his quest to dictate ‘rules of the road’ (aka: ‘Net Neutrality’) for broadband delivery companies, even after twice being slapped down by the Supremes for such regulatory overreach. Genachowski’s invasion into an area he has no legislated authority is more a corporate matter; he wants the power to decree, for lack of a better metaphor, whether speed limits may be imposed on privately-held (Internet) roads:

At stake is how far the FCC can go to dictate the way Internet providers manage traffic on their multibillion-dollar networks. For the past decade or so, the FCC has maintained a mostly hands-off approach to Internet regulation.

Internet giants like Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc., which want to offer more Web video and other high-bandwidth services, have called for stronger action by the FCC to assure free access to websites.

Cable and telecommunications executives have warned that using land-line phone rules to govern their management of Internet traffic would lead them to cut billions of capital expenditure for their networks, slash jobs and go to court to fight the rules.

Personally, I’m mixed on this topic, because I understand both sides of the argument. Google and the other content providers want to be able to keep shoveling content into the request engine at an unrestricted clip; the delivery boys are saying, “You’re maxxing out our infrastructure; you should pay a fee so we can improve the delivery.”

As said, an argument I’m not picking sides right now;… other than: build out your own delivery system if you think the current sucks, Brin.

Copps, on the other hand, wants the power to decide who gets to drive on the road, whether the road is private or publicly held:

“We are going to be pretty close to denying our citizens the essential news and information that they need to have in order to make intelligent decisions about the future direction of their country,” Copps told the BBC. Media outlets are not “producing the body of news and information that democracy needs to conduct its civic dialogue.”

According to Copps, of course. He’s got an idea about where ‘standards’ should be set.

via Wizbang, we get a taste of what Copps is talking about:

Meaningful Commitments to News and Public Affairs Programming. These would be quantifiable and not involve issues of content interference.  Increasing the human and financial resources going into news would be one way to benchmark progress. Producing more local civic affairs programming would be another.  Our current children’s programming requirements–the one remnant of public interest requirements still on the books–helped enhance kids’ programming.  Now it is time to put news and information  front-and-center.  At election time, there should be heightened expectations for debates and issues-oriented programming.  Those stations attaining certain benchmarks of progress could qualify for expedited handling of their license renewals.  This requirement would have, by the way, important spill-over effects in a media environment where many newspapers are owned by broadcast stations–although such cross-ownership is something I hope the Commission will put the brakes on.

As Kim over at Wizbang notes, “In other words, the federal government will use federal funds combined with FCC regulators to strong arm television stations into broadcasting FCC-approved shows in FCC-approved ways. He says the commission would not interfere with show content, but we all know what inevitably happens when the government inserts itself.”

and don’t kid yourself; Copps wants to take over radio more than any other outlet.

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