The Federal Communications Commission is joining the fight against bullying. Reportedly, the agency will soon issue rules requiring schools that receive federal funding for Internet equipment and service under its “E-rate” program to educate students on “how to act responsibly online.” Specific topics will include “cyber-bullying prevention” and “behavior on social networking sites like Facebook.”
It’s an odd new mission for the agency. Certainly, no one should defend bullying, and everyone is in favor of proper behavior online. But do America’s schools really need direction on those issues from the FCC? What’s next? Education mandates from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission?
To be fair, the FCC does know a thing or two about bullying. For the past 75 years, it has bullied its own way around the communications marketplace. Just ask anyone who had been harassed under the Fairness Doctrine, broadcasters fined under vague indecency standards, cable providers facing an FCC “war on cable,” or—currently—Internet service providers being threatened with regulation under improvised “Title II” standards.
Now, it’s schools the FCC is looking to bully. The agency’s portal into education policy, of course, is the $2.25 billion schools and libraries fund it administers. Originally meant to hook schools up to the Internet, its purpose was accomplished long ago and should be terminated. But even if it continues, it should be administered by the Education Department, not telecommunications regulators. And it certainly should not be used as a hook to give telecom regulators a say in how local schools operate.