In light of the current Net neutrality debate (and our stance on it) I thought I might share this short policy article from 12 years ago, written on the 5th anniversary of “Telecommunications Deregulation.”
Much has changed in the telecom space over the past decade to be sure but the article is still very valuable. It illustrates how it is that no matter what, government always grabs more power even when it says it’s giving up power. And why it is that we are all still paying bills to Comcast.
In sum, the era of “deregulation” has seen the FCC issue one of the biggest regulatory edicts in U.S. history; create an unconstitutional new federal program plus a hidden tax to pay for it; and grow to become bigger and more powerful than ever.
Deregulation should mean the removal of regulations — not the imposition of new forms of regulation to replace old ones. And deregulation should also mean the eventual “sunsetting” of the agency that oversees the sector that legislators hope to deregulate.
Ironically, Republicans, who have controlled Congress during and after passage of the Telecom Act, should have learned this lesson from Democrats. In the late 1970s the Democrats almost completely deregulated the airline industry and simultaneously put a plan in motion to shut down the agency that oversaw that sector. By the mid-1980s, the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had once micro-managed almost every facet of the cartel-ridden airline sector, was phased out. As a result, more people fly today because the cost of air travel fell and service options multiplied.
Why has true telecom deregulation been derailed? Because policy makers have developed a bad case of “Chicken Little complex”: a persistent fear that the sky will fall on telecom companies and consumers if regulators let go of the reins of power.