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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Can the Reulators Regulate Their Way to Deregulation?
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Adam Thierer, the Cato Institute's director of telecommunications studies, has just penned a cogently argued "Open Letter to Pro-Regulation Conservatives." As usual, Adam is pretty pointed--and pretty much on point. In this piece, he takes on Jim Glassman, Grover Norquist, and Bruce Fein--generally pro-free market thinkers and supporters--for their pro-regulatory stances and lack of faith in the marketplace when it comes to the telecom industry. Well worth reading.

Adam correctly points out how the FCC's unduly excessive infrastructure sharing regulations do little to bring about real facilities-based competition. The 1996 Telecom Act may have mandated that the FCC require facilities-sharing to some degree for some period of time, but not to an unlimited degree for an indefinite period of time. Conservatives usually oppose this type of overzealous, no-end-in-sight regulation.

While Adam doesn't mention property rights in his letter, I might add that the regulatory sharing mandates obviously are in derogation of the property rights that the service providers otherwise would have with respect to determining the use of their facilities. Apart from any property-rights concerns from a legal perspective relating to the FCC's infrastructure sharing mandates, as a matter of prudential policy, conservatives usually think twice before endorsing regulatory regimes that materially impact property rights.

To me, anyway, this is all as much a matter of classical liberalism, properly understood, as some conservative Rorschbach test. The real issue, as Adam's letter asks Messrs. Glassman, Norquist, and Fein to ask themselves is this: "If you believe in free markets, do you really believe that the regulators can regulate their way to meaningful deregulation?"

posted by Randolph May @ 2:34 PM | General

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