No sooner was the ink dry on most certificates of election for Congress than President Barack Obama on Monday embraced the cause of Internet regulation —
or, as he and other supporters refer to it, "net neutrality" —
which is sure to raise the hackles of Republicans as well as those of a few Democrats.
Soon after the surprise announcement
from the White House on Monday morning, the blog of the Progressive Policy Institute came out swinging against what it called "President Obama's endorsement today of monopoly-era, common-carrier regulations (called "Title II") for broadband providers."
"First, Title II is not necessary to protect consumers from the hypothetical threat of discrimination by broadband providers against edge providers," argued the "Progressive Fix," adding that the president's effort also does not "move us towards compromise on other, arguably more critical, communications issues."
Given the past opposition from conservatives and the latest spirited salvo from the left, more than a few "net watchers" and Capitol Hill hands anticipate an all-out battle between the White House and Congress. This could possibly occur in the lame-duck session of Congress later this year and not in the new Congress, which takes office in January.
In a statement from the White House, the president called on the Federal Communications Commission to "answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality."
By the "call of 4 million public comments," Mr. Obama was referring to what the Washington Post's Nancy Scola dubbed on Sept. 24 "an unusual collaboration" between supporters of net neutrality and the FCC staff over the ECFS [Electronic Comment Filing System] that accepts public comments on communications issues.
By the time the Sept. 15 deadline rolled around for public comments on "so-called net neutrality," Scola reported, 3.7 million comments had been recorded by the federal government, more than the FCC has gotten on any debate in its 80-year history."
While no analysis has been done of how many of the comments supported more draconian regulations, both Scola and now President Barack Obama have apparently ignored the existence of a substantial number of anti-regulation comments.
With three of its five commissioners appointed by Democratic presidents, the FCC could move as soon as its next meeting, scheduled for later this month, to implement the stricter regulations outlined by the president on Monday.
Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, which organized over 800,000 public comments against net neutrality, told Newsmax that implementation of such regulations "would in effect turn the Internet into a public utility identical to that of the telephone company from when it was a government-sanctioned monopoly in the 1930s until a federal judge finally broke it up in the 1980s. The same regulatory rubric with which 'Ma Bell' governed telephones would be utilized by 'Ma Net' under the Obama proposal."
Kerpen quoted Wall Street analyst Craig Moffet's characterization of the Obama-blessed "net neutrality" as "the nuclear option," voicing the view that it would have a devastating impact on private investment in the Internet.
Should the FCC opt for the proposed new rules later this month, it is considered a foregone conclusion that lawmakers will move immediately to attempt to strike them down. Rep. Greg Walden (R.-Ore.), a senior member of the House Energy Committee, is expected to be a key point man in fighting the rules change in the House. Sen. John Thune (R.-S.D.) will likely play the same role on the Senate side.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R.-Va.), retiring chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the FCC, could also be a key player if Congress moves to stop the proposed rules in the lame-duck session.
Several Democrats in Congress have a history of opposing so-called net neutrality, among them the Congressional Black Caucus.
But with any measure overturning an FCC ruling likely to meet a veto once on the president's desk, some lawmakers say a better option might be getting language protecting the net from regulation in the omnibus bill that funds the government.
Obama made clear his commitment to the proposed regulatory measures Monday.
Whether there are enough members of Congress who demonstrate they are just as strongly opposed will be one of the defining moments in the anticipated clash between the White House and Congress in Obama's last two years in office.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.