- - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

On Friday, Dec. 4, the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia will hear oral arguments regarding heavy-handed Internet regulations enacted in June by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and President Obama.

While no decision will be made until next year, the public convening of the three-judge panel is no doubt important: It provides ample opportunity for opponents of the rules to show the lunacy of equating the web to the phone system of the 1930s under the loaded guise of “net neutrality.”

With a slew of potential outcomes, the possibilities include completely throwing out the rules, keeping parts of them or Congress advancing a bipartisan compromise. Most free-market advocates and policy experts hope the court will at least reverse the most outlandish portion of the regulations – regulating innovating cellphones under the same laws regulating your grandmother’s Ma Bell landline telephone network.

For those living under a rock for the past year, or simply choosing to ignore the absurd actions of the same administration responsible for Obamacare and the “all of the above” energy policy, “Obamanet” is the socialist view of the Internet whereby government permission outweighs innovation.

Obamanet is a “solution” in search of a problem – a means to prevent the blocking or prioritizing of Internet information, despite even a single example of this occurring. The tools used by the supposedly “independent” agency are utility-style regulations written by people who likely died before the Internet was pervasive.

“At stake is whether the Internet remains safe for permissionless innovation — so that anyone can launch a website, app or new business model — or regulators get to set rates and decide the ‘reasonableness’ of business practices,” says Wall Street Journal columnist L. Gordon Crovitz.

Under intense pressure from President Obama and his rabid supporters who yearn for a government-run Internet, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler turned the Internet on his head, much to the chagrin of Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail.

Ted Cruz dubbed it “the biggest regulatory threat to the Internet.” Jeb Bush has invoked the regulations twice now in debates. And former HP CEO Carly Fiorina – perhaps the 2016 presidential campaign candidate most versed in technology policy – rightly says the rules embody crony capitalism, a system that favors companies like Google and Netflix over the companies that freely carry their traffic.

This is the third and, hopefully, final time the D.C. Circuit will review FCC “net neutrality” regulations. Unfortunately, this debate has shifted considerably in the last year, and to try and return the Internet to a completely unregulated service is probably no longer a reality. Thanks to Mr. Obama and the FCC, the toothpaste is out of the tube – at least until there’s a principled Republican in the White House.

So while we can hope the court aborts the mission in totality, we must all at least hope that, while Congress pursues a better fix, the court returns wireless services to an “information service,” instead of a “telecommunication service.” Thanks to smartphones and Internet technologies, cellphone companies are certainly much more than just telecom providers these days.

The vast majority of consumers have access to at least four formidable networks. The market offers alternatives, via pre-pay phones, and unique services, like WhatsApp, to communicate. Need proof of intense competition? Look no further than the all-out price war decimating profit margins for wireless carriers. Or the bevy of startups-turned-everyday service, from Uber to HBO Go on your phone.

The well-worn red tape is being applied to wireless will jeopardize our amazing wireless innovations.

There are surely things to improve in the wireless world, but antiquated regulations don’t belong in that toolbox. When critics of Mr. Obama’s web rules convene Friday, let’s hope they make that clear. Too must depends on our powerful, wireless devices to allow misguided government regulation to stand.

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