The Executive Summary of the Executive Summary

In a highly symbolic gesture, the Federal Communications Commission published the executive summary of its “National Broadband Plan” in one of the most opaque formats going: It’s a PDF scan of a printed document.

This means you can’t cut and paste the bullet point that says:

“Increase civic engagement by making government more open and transparent, creating a robust public media ecosystem and modernizing the democratic process.”

Can an agency that publishes documents in inaccessible formats be relied on to deliver transparency? Did you know that this is Sunshine Week?! Let’s segue from symbolism to substance … 

That bullet and the many that accompany it explode the FCC’s proper authority and propose an industrial policy fit for . . . well, the industrial age—not that industrial policies were any good then.

The executive summary is 56 bullets broken into four sections, and six “goals” carefully crafted to avoid measurement with nebulous concepts like “affordable.” (We all want it, but affordability is subjective. Nothing is universally “affordable” while it bears a price tag.)

The one goal that is measurable is telling in its own way:

“Goal No. 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.”

(Why should it take broadband to monitor your energy consumption? Does the FCC plan to send out scanned PDFs of photos of your electric meter?)

Whether we should have a network-managed energy system or not, note how the Federal Communications Commission’s “broadband” plan would make it a player in the energy business. It would also be a player in health care. And education. And “economic opportunity.”

As to the latter, maybe the FCC has a leg to stand on. Expanding the current “universal service” tax-and-subsidy scheme would provide economic opportunity of a sort to the better lobbied firms in the telecommunications industry.

As I wrote before, in an even more summary way, “The Federal Communications Commission should be shuttered.” That’s still the gist of what I have to say about the “National Broadband Plan.”