Former FCC Chair to Cell Companies: No First Amendment for You

Former FCC Chair to Cell Companies: No First Amendment for You

Tech companies spend trillions of dollars to build and maintain, expand and improve their Internet networks. 

Broadband industry has invested nearly $1.2 trillion dollars since 1996

So it is more than a mite disturbing when a democrat former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman dismisses the notion that these companies exclusively own these networks and that their First Amendment rights are flexible.

President Bill Clinton’s first-term Chairman Reed Hundt did exactly that last Wednesday, at an event commissioned and put together by Democrat Congressmen Henry Waxman, Anna Eshoo, Ed Markey, Michael Doyle and Doris Matsui.  Chairman Hundt co-hosted the event with anti-First Amendment amicus-filing attorney David Goldberg:

(An exhaustive Web search netted no video or transcript of the event.)

Lawsuits seeking to overturn President Barack Obama’s Network Neutrality, illegally imposed in December 2010, argue in part that it violates their First Amendment rights. The Left is seeking to deliver a rebuttal to this assertion.

Chairman Hundt was asked (by yours truly) something along the lines of:

Can the government come into the home or business for which you paid and built and tell you what you can and cannot say?

Of course the answer was and is No.  So I followed up with:

How then are wireless networks – for which these companies paid and built – so fundamentally different?  How are they not afforded the same First Amendment protections as you – and everyone else?

Chairman Hundt and Doctor of Jurisprudence Goldberg combined to give a shambling, rambling, totally unsatisfactory answer, which lead to a follow up – worded similarly to mine – from elsewhere in the room.  To which Chairman Hundt responded with something like:

These companies lease the spectrum on which they build these networks. So the notion that they own them outright is simply not true. These are publicly-privately owned properties.

Which is troubling from private property, free market and free speech perspectives.

Cellular companies have, since 1996, invested in these networks to the tune of $1.2 trillion,  after first paying the federal government billions more for the spectrum rights to do so.  It’s a little disrupting and disconcerting to hear that they may not actually own them. 

Furthermore, they are subject to the capricious whims of government officials who may at any time exert government’s alleged ownership rights – against and at the expense of their property. 

‘Thanks for the Trillion Dollar Investment – We’ll Take it (Over) from Here. Sincerely, the Government’

 This is an egregious Fifth Amendment violation.

 No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. 

And thus a creator of enormous economic uncertainty.  If you may not be able to hold on to your property, why continue to invest therein?  The results:

Tech (sector) layoffs hit 3-year high in first half of 2012; 260% more than first half 2011.

And, again, Chairman Hundt suggested that these networks are public-private ownership stakes – and that the “public” portion allows the government to limit free speech.

To which I responded:

So the government can limit free speech in public arenas and endeavors?

Which caused Chairman Hundt to look like he had just swallowed a lizard – and retract his latter assertion. This Leftist notion that the First Amendment does not apply to the Internet – or anyone or anything else – is not novel.  

Obama Official-Network Neutrality Deviser Says First Amendment Doesn’t Apply to Our Computers

Obama: First Amendment Doesn’t Apply to Business

‘No Amendment is Absolute’: Chuck Schumer Complains About the First Amendment on Senate Floor

And if you can’t silence them outright – tax them into oblivion.

Free Speech Tax – Philadelphia Looks to Stamp Act Blogs

Reality, common sense – and the courts – seem to disagree.

First Amendment Applies to Internet, Appeals Court Rules

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals strik(es) down a Seattle law restricting free speech

Supreme Court allows new challenge to ‘ObamaCare’

Reality, common sense and the courts seem also to disagree with the Left’s notion that the government has the authority to impose Net Neutrality.  Circa 2010:

Court: FCC Has No Power to Regulate Net Neutrality

Panel of three federal judges unanimously tosses out Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality sanctions…saying the agency has no legal authority to regulate….

But, as usual, Leftists never allow facts to get in the way of a good beating.


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