Worse for Web Freedom: Hugo Chavez or the FCC?

It all comes in the wake of his Day One proclamation that his FCC would be “fair, open and transparent” -- and his once-upon-a-time description of his net neutrality emplacement process (which has now become a Congress-free rewrite of communications law):

I will ensure that the rulemaking process will be fair, transparent, fact-based, and data-driven. Anyone will be able to participate in this process, and I hope everyone will. We will hold a number of public workshops and, of course, use the Internet and other new media tools to facilitate participation. Today we’ve launched a new website, www.OpenInternet.gov, to kick off discussion of the issues I’ve been talking about. We encourage everyone to visit the site and contribute to the process.

What we are now being force fed represents none of this. This process is unfair, shrouded in mystery, willfully ignorant of the obvious facts, and thoroughly data-averse. Virtually no one has been able to participate. Instead, there is a brand-new, 85-page order -- unposted on OpenInternet.gov, public workshops unheld, public comment period disallowed.

The latest layer of bureaucratic sludge to be slopped on top was a 2,000+ page document dump at the absolute last moment -- a massive, last-minute filing that makes the process yet more opaque. It is patently absurd to accept an addition to the record of that size, this close to the vote date, and expect anyone -- inside or outside the FCC -- to pore over the thing in time.

This -- all of this -- is the rough FCC equivalent of Congress filing the 2,400+ page ObamaCare bill and demanding a vote on it two days later. Chairman Genachowski might as well paraphrase outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: we have to pass the order, and all the attending filings, so that you can find out what is in it.

We on the right routinely, rightly lambaste Hugo Chavez and his Marxist thug-ocracy -- just as we regularly castigate Europe for diet versions of Chavez policies. But of late we have seen Europe pull back from Internet regulatory oblivion. And we’re now seeing Chavez engage the legislative process while our unelected bureaucrats are rushing to eschew it. Chavez could practically be said to be seeking far less statutory harm than our FCC is dead set on doing.

Being to the left of Scandinavia and France is bad enough. If we are now beyond the bounds of Hugo Boss -- just how far from the path have we strayed?