Following last week’s major setback in the FCC’s grand plan to regulate the Internet, a couple of polls have come out showing where the public stands on the issue. Needless to say, they lean strongly for less government involvement.
First, as Adam Thierer pointed out last Friday, support for overall regulation of the Internet has plummeted over the past two years. A new poll by Rasmussen Reports found that 53% oppose regulating the Internet like they do radio and television, while only 27% support it. This is a 22 point drop in support of regulation since 2008, when 49% of Americans supported greater regulation. The poll takes aim at the argument made by Net Neutrality proponents (like this factually inaccurate New York Times op-ed by Susan Crawford) that the FCC should reclassify the Internet to Title II of the Communications Act, moving it from a relatively unregulated to heavily regulated service. It also comes as the FCC proudly last week outlined over 60 rulemakings to implement their sweeping and unnecessary National Broadband Plan.
Additionally, another Rasmussen poll has found that a mere 20% of individuals support taxing e-commerce, such as books, movies, music, and ringtones purchased online, while 61% oppose it. Given these numbers, one can only imagine what Americans think of more broadly taxing Internet access. Yet, as the FCC Commissioners gear up to their next Open Meeting on April 21, that is exactly what they will discuss. The FCC has made expanding the Universal Service Fund tax to Internet access one of the fundamental funding components of the broadband plan. They also have discussed the tax treatment of digital goods and services.
As the FCC pursues its massive agenda to regulate another 1/6th of the economy, let’s see if it at least has the decency to go to Congress for its authority, or if it will continue to hide from an overwhelmingly opposed public.