Friday, September 23, 2005 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Think Tank Consensus Builds on the Telecom Discussion Draft

We here at PFF are apparently not the only ones with some serious reservations about the new House Commerce Committee discussion draft. (Ray, Randy, Kyle and I have all released essays this week about this telecom reform effort and found serious problems with it). But our friends over at the Discovery Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation are also sounding alarm bells.

For example, Discovery Institute's new telecom guru Hance Haney argues that, "The Internet has flourished without oversight by the Federal Communications Commission, yet, for some reason, a draft proposal for re-writing the Telecommunications Act of 1996 tells the FCC to regulate it." Hance goes on to point out that, while there are some good elements of the discussion draft, "[the] incremental deregulation comes with a lot of regulatory baggage." Echoing what all of us here at PFF have pondered in our essays, Hance wonders why this needed to be the case: "What is not clear is why new and existing regulation is needed when the telecom and cable markets are awash with competition."

Braden Cox of CEI agrees. In his essay, Braden argues that the proposed measure "creates new complicated, technology-based rules to replace old ones." How many complicated new rules, you ask? Braden finds at least 30 new functions for the FCC mandated by the bill, including 18 different rulemakings or official inquiries. Braden goes on to suggest some excellent alternative draft language if the drafters of this current measure are interested in replacing some of the the over-regulatory language of the House discussion draft.

Finally, James Gattuso, the godfather of telecom policy wonks, is equally concerned about the discussion draft and finds even more regulation than Braden. In his review of the bill, James finds 80 private-sector mandates and restrictions, forcing him to ask: "What happened to telecom deregulation?" James argues that "Rather than open the doors to innovations and services that the market demands, [the bill] would only grant regulatory relief to services that meet Washington's view of what should be offered." Therefore, he concludes, "This attempted rewrite of telecommunications laws needs a rewrite itself."

Hopefully the House Commerce Committee will take these concerns to heart and work to achieve meaningful communications and media policy reform without resorting to new regulatory schemes or mandates. If they're interested in a good starting model, I suggest they take a second look at PFF's DACA project.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:22 AM | Capitol Hill , Communications , Wireline