Wicker challenges Internet rules, White House overreach

Published 7:00 am Thursday, March 26, 2015

Costly regulations often make news headlines when related to Obamacare and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – two major examples of onerous bureaucratic overreach. However, the power grabs do not stop there, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently demonstrated. Late last month, the independent agency ruled that the Internet should be treated like a public utility, laying the groundwork for widespread federal regulation.
Forcing Consumers to Pay the Price
The FCC’s 400-page ruling follows public pressure from the Obama Administration to take a heavy-handed and unnecessary approach toward Internet service. The Internet has flourished for years with minimal government interference. Now, the so-called “net neutrality” rules would apply outdated regulation – originally designed for telephone monopolies – to 21st-century cyberspace. Many fear that the controversial move could severely discourage innovation and investment, which have long energized the tech economy. Even Democrats appointed to the commission raised concerns with the ruling’s process.

I anticipate that the FCC’s actions will be challenged in court, involving years and years of litigation and uncertainty for job creators and innovators. A better response might be a bipartisan legislative solution involving a set of broad guidelines and a “light touch” regulatory approach. This would help consumers avoid unnecessary regulations, taxes, and fees. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, I will remain actively involved in the FCC’s oversight.
Removing Barriers to Economic Growth
There are already efforts in Congress to examine the economic impact of intrusive government regulation in general. With the size of the U.S. workforce at a historic low and the economy still weak, removing barriers to growth is a sensible, job-creating strategy. We should not underestimate the negative effects of the Administration’s extreme regulatory agenda. So far this year, the government has imposed more than $30 billion in compliance costs and 13.5 million paperwork hours on the U.S. economy. A survey by the National Small Business Association revealed that small businesses spend on average more than $15,000 a year complying with the President’s health-care law alone.
Weighing Costs and Benefits
One bill I have cosponsored, introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), would require federal agencies to conduct cost-benefit analyses on new regulations. Proposed EPA rules on ground ozone levels, for example, threaten to slash economic growth by trillions of dollars and cost millions of jobs without yielding substantial environmental benefits. Under Sen. Roberts’s “Regulatory Responsibility for Our Economy Act,” the agency would have to assess these actions, justify the economic costs, and allow for stakeholder input.

Another bill I support, titled the “Regulatory Improvement Act,” would create a commission to review outdated regulations and contradictory government mandates. The bipartisan measure, introduced by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), would help pinpoint red tape that can be streamlined, consolidated, or repealed. These reviews would give special consideration to regulations that affect small businesses.

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Unleashing the U.S. workforce and encouraging ingenuity will require an honest assessment of government regulatory overreach, which continues to be a major obstacle to job creation. It is staggering to think that 80 of the 3,500 finalized rules last year would each have an annual economic impact of at least $100 million. Minimizing these economic burdens can make a big difference in Americans’ lives, empowering entrepreneurs – not the government – to be the drivers of our continued success.

By Senator Roger Wicker