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When the FCC announced that it was going to regulate internet service providers as telecommunications companies, the agency was careful to assuage fears about regulatory overreach. The final rule took pains to assure us that the only purpose of a more heavily regulated internet was to enforce the principle of Net Neutrality, a workaround of a federal court’s decision that the agency was exceeding its authority.
A federal Net Neutrality mandate is bad policy on its own, but the further reaching regulations the FCC ultimately adopted were far worse. Recognizing this, Commissioner Tom Wheeler told us not to worry. The agency was going to use “forbearance,” meaning it had no plans to use the new powers it had granted itself.
Now, surprise surprise, those promises are being revealed to be as empty as AMTRAK train, as Commissioner Ajit Pai has revealed that the agency is planning a hefty broadband tax hike in the near future.
Pai said, “Most immediately I think what is going to happen is that the FCC has specifically opened the door to an increase on the tax that is going to be placed on broadband. We are waiting for a joint board to recommend to us on April 7 how big that tax is going to be. So I would imagine in the next month or two we are going to see, for the first time, taxes placed on broadband bills so your bills are going to go up .”
It will be remembered that Pai was the FCC Commissioner who protested most vocally against the new regulations, holding up the rulebook on camera to demonstrate its ridiculous thickness.
Those of us opposing the FCC’s actions have known for some time that the government never grants itself taxing power without the intention to use it, and that Net Neutrality was merely the first step in a more comprehensive government takeover of the internet.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear challenges to the FCC’s legal ability to classify broadband internet service as a public utility this December, and more challenges are sure to follow, so the opportunity to stop the FCC is not yet past. It’s vital that we protect the freedom of the internet from government regulators, in order to preserve one of the most transformative tools for innovation the world has ever seen - and protect your wallet at the same time.