Step back, and the real question isn't whether the agency has the authority to regulate the Internet - it's why the FCC has authority to regulate anything.
Forget the agency's $338 million price tag for a moment and ask, "What does the FCC do?" Its task is to oversee the nation's communications infrastructure - which, these days, means everything from TV and radio to wireless phones and Internet connections. But how many of these tasks constitute core government functions? From nagging the Net to regulating broadcast speech, just about everything the FCC does is either onerous or ineffective. Either way, it's unnecessary.
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The FCC's entire approach is to rule by impulse and expand its reach whenever and wherever possible. Recent FCC actions include investigating the approval process Apple employs in its iPhone App Store, mulling whether and how phone companies might upgrade their networks and passing judgment on various consumer devices of minimal likely importance, such as the Palm Pixi.
When the FCC was launched in 1934, backers argued that airwave scarcity justified its existence. In an age of information overload, with a nearly infinite array of media choices available to anyone with a mobile phone or broadband connection, no such argument can be made. Yet rather than shrinking, the FCC has ballooned, growing its budget by more than 60 percent between 1999 and 2009.
I know the point has been made numous times, but it bears repeating: Electronic media are no different than any other covered by the First Amendment and should be treated accordingly. Freedom of expression is freedom of expression. When I'm king and start cutting the federal government down to size, the FCC will be the first agency to go. The IRS will take a little longer.