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The FCC goes fishing for an excuse to regulate

So the FCC is having another open meeting on Tuesday, February 8. A tentative agenda for that meeting has been published, and part of it looks dangerous. It’s written in conservative-friendly language, talking about streamlining processes and minimizing the burdens on the private sector, but there could be much more to it than that.

The agenda says the FCC is issuing “A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, initiated as part of the Commission’s Data Innovation Initiative, to streamline and modernize the collection of data via Form 477, in order to ensure that the data the Commission collects enables informed policymaking while minimizing burdens on voice and broadband service providers.” Note: this means the FCC isn’t just gathering data, but is already about to propose new rules. So what happens might happen quickly, so we’d best be sure we know just what the FCC is up to here.

As the agenda says, the focus here is on FCC Form 477, a six part form the FCC requires wired and wireless high speed Internet, local exchange phone, mobile phone, and VoIP providers to file twice every year on June 30 and December 31. This form has one purpose: to give the government detailed information about phone and Internet use in America. Some of it is then compiled and distributed in reports on competition.

So for the FCC to be tinkering with this report is an interesting event. Given that the data gathered from the reports is central to the coming debates on universal broadband access (a push the President has now joined), we need to look very closely at just what new requirements they will be putting on business, what data will be collected, and why.

If there’s even one fishy element, I even hope we get hearings in the House about it. Just as with the Census, we cannot let the radicals control the process and rig the numbers to push their agenda. Because the FCC has already proven it’ll redefine upward what counts as broadband in order to change the headline figures in reports, in order to justify more regulation, so we know they’re capable of anything.

They’re going on a fishing trip next week, and we’d better watch what bait they’re using.

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