The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to approve the policy known as Net Neutrality while the language of the agency’s new regulations is still reportedly being drafted.
“As is typical for a final rule and order,” said Kim Hart, an FCC spokeswoman, “the final document is not available until staff makes final edits, which must be cleared by each commissioner.”
In divining the ultimate intent of the FCC’s new regulations, it may be instructive to look at some of the ideology of the personalities involved in crafting and pushing Net Neutrality.
The FCC’s Net Neutrality ruling seems to be the continuation of a plan put in place by the agency’s former chairman, Julius Genachowski. In 2010, FCC’s Genachowski proposed a “third way” to regulate broadband by reclassifying the transmission of data as a telecommunications service to be directly regulated by the agency.
At the time, Genachowski referred to his plan as a regulatory “backstop” for the government to “protect” citizens on the Internet.
“The state of our economy and recent events are reminders both of the need to be cautious and the necessity of a regulatory backstop to protect the American people,” Genachowski said in a statement. “I stand ready to explore all constructive ideas and expect those who engage with us to do so constructively as well.”
Already, some are pointing to concerns the extensive new regulations will include a “general conduct rule” that will leave open the possibility of the FCC determining what is in the public’s “best” interest as far as Internet content.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation noted the FCC’s own “Fact Sheet” proposed the conduct rule “will allow the FCC to review (and presumably punish) non-neutral practices that may ‘harm’ consumers.”
The EFF relates: “Unfortunately, if a recent report from Reuters is correct, the general conduct rule will be anything but clear. The FCC will evaluate ‘harm’ based on consideration of seven factors: impact on competition; impact on innovation; impact on free expression; impact on broadband deployment and investments; whether the actions in question are specific to some applications and not others; whether they comply with industry best standards and practices; and whether they take place without the awareness of the end-user, the Internet subscriber.”
Talk radio enemy
To determine the possible aim of the FCC’s new regulations, consider some of the people behind the movement.
Firstly, there is Genachowski’s then-deputy at the FCC, Mark Lloyd, who was the agency’s diversity officer until 2012. Lloyd has been a principle advocate of Net Neutrality.
Lloyd was also a senior fellow at the heavily influential Center for American Progress, or CAP, and served as a consultant to George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
Lloyd co-authored a 2007 CAP study titled “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.”
The 40-page report, reviewed in full by WND, recommended radio station “ownership diversity,” citing data claiming stations “owned by women, minorities, or local owners are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows.”
Lloyd wrote that all radio stations should be required to “provide information on how the station serves the public interest in a variety of areas.”
The CAP report specifically called on the FCC to mandate all radio broadcast licensees “to regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest and provide public documentation and viewing of how they are meeting these obligations.”
Lloyd and co-authors lamented the FCC “renews broadcast licensees with a postcard renewal, and while it once promised random audits of stations it has never conducted a single audit.”
In a follow up to the CAP report, Lloyd penned a 2007 article at CAP’s website titled “Forget the Fairness Doctrine.”
In the piece, Lloyd claimed that Citadel Broadcasting, then the owner of major U.S. radio stations, “refuses” to air the progressive Ed Shultz radio show. Lloyd offered no evidence that Citadel made the decision based on politics rather than Shultz’s low ratings.
Lloyd called for new “ownership rules that we think will create greater local diversity of programming, news, and commentary.”
“And we call for more localism by putting teeth into the licensing rule,” he said.
“Localism” is a reference to the FCC rule that requires radio and TV stations to serve the local community’s interests, one of which, according to the Obama administration, is “diversity of programming.”
In 2009, FoxNews.com reported Lloyd called for “equal opportunity employment practices,” “local engagement” and “license challenges” to rectify what he perceived as an imbalance in talk radio and news coverage.
Another Net Neutrality proponent has been Obama’s long-time “Internet czar,” Susan P. Crawford. She has been associated with a controversial, Marxist-led outfit calling itself Free Press, which advocates for more government control of the Internet.
Crawford spoke at a Free Press’s May 14, 2009, “Changing Media” summit in Washington, D.C.
Crawford’s pet project, OneWebNow, listed as “participating organizations” Free Press and the controversial Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.
Crawford and Kevin Werbach, who co-directed the Obama transition team’s Federal Communications Commission Review team, are advisory board members at Public Knowledge, a George Soros-funded public interest group.
A Public Knowledge advisory board member is Timothy Wu, who is also chairman of the board for Free Press.
Like Public Knowledge, Free Press also has received funds from Soros’ Open Society Institute.
WND reported Free Press has urged the Federal Communications Commission to investigate talk radio and cable news for “hate speech.”
The organization claims media companies are engaging in “hate speech” because a disproportionate number of radio and cable-news networks are owned by non-minorities.
WND previously reported Free Press published a study advocating the development of a “world class” government-run media system in the U.S.
The founder of Free Press, Robert W. McChesney, is an avowed Marxist who has recommended capitalism be dismantled.
McChesney is a professor at the University of Illinois and former editor of the Marxist journal Monthly Review.
In February 2009, McChesney recommended capitalism be dismantled.
“In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick-by-brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles,’” wrote McChesney in a column.
There are other Obama administration ties to Free Press. In May 2010, WND reported Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott was named a policy adviser for innovation at the State Department.
The board of Free Press has included a slew of radicals, such as Obama’s former “green jobs” czar” Van Jones, who resigned in 2009 after his founding of a communist organization was exposed.
‘Legal mandate’ to regulate conservative sites
The FCC’s former diversity czar, Lloyd, meanwhile, has worked closely for years with Obama’s former regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein.
Sunstein himself in 2001 once proposed government intervention in the Internet. He called for a “legal mandate” to ensure diversity of content.
His proposal called for “sites of one point of view agree to provide links to other sites, so that if you’re reading a conservative magazine, they would provide a link to a liberal site and vice versa, just to make it easy for people to get access to competing views. Or maybe a pop-up on your screen that would show an advertisement or maybe even a quick argument for a competing view.”
Sunstein advocated that “the best would be for this to be done voluntarily, but the word ‘voluntary’ is a little complicated, and sometimes people don’t do what’s best for our society unless Congress holds hearings or unless the public demands it.”
He maintained his “idea would be to have a legal mandate as the last resort, and to make sure it’s as neutral as possible if we have to get there, but to have that as, you know, an ultimate weapon designed to encourage people to do better.”
In a 2002 book, Sunstein “talks about the idea of the government requiring sites to link to opposing views,” according to a PolitiFact synopsis.
However, in 2007, Sunstein recanted, stating government mandates for Internet “equality” were a “bad idea.”
He wrote in a 2007 book that he instead advocated for the creation of public Internet spaces to share opposing views and ideas.
Still, Sunstein’s other views on government mandates for the Internet have not been reconsidered by the ex-Obama czar.
WND previously reported Sunstein drew up a “First Amendment New Deal” – a new “Fairness Doctrine” that would include the establishment of a panel of “nonpartisan experts” to ensure “diversity of view” on the airwaves.
WND also reported that in a recently released book, “On Rumors,” Sunstein argued websites should be obliged to remove “false rumors” while libel laws should be altered to make it easier to sue for spreading such “rumors.”
In the 2009 book, Sunstein cited as a primary example of “absurd” and “hateful” remarks, reports by “right-wing websites” alleging an association between President Obama and former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers.
Sunstein also singled out radio talker Sean Hannity for “attacking” Obama regarding the president’s “alleged associations.”
Ayers became a name in the 2008 presidential campaign when it was disclosed he worked closely with Obama for years. Obama also was said to have launched his political career at a 1995 fundraiser in Ayers’ apartment.
Meanwhile, in a lengthy academic paper, Sunstein, argued the U.S. government should ban “conspiracy theorizing,” WND reported.
Among the examples of speech that should be banned, Sustein offered, is advocating that the theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.
Sunstein also recommended the government send agents to infiltrate “extremists who supply conspiracy theories” and disrupt the efforts of the “extremists” to propagate their theories.
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott.