Telecom Reform: Just Say No

by on January 17, 2006 · 2 comments

Over at Brainwash, I argue that the best outcome libertarians can hope for from the telecom reform debate is probably for Congress to do nothing.

The question Congress ought to be asking is: “why are we regulating these industries at all?” Telecommunications regulations are traditionally justified as a way to limit “natural monopolies,” but there don’t seem to be any monopolies left. A sensible telecom reform would repeal the anachronistic regulations that draw increasingly meaningless distinctions among voice, video and data services.

Instead, Congress is headed in precisely the opposite direction. In September, the House released a draft of proposed telecom legislation that would create three new categories of service: Broadband Internet Transmission Service (BITS), Broadband Video Service (BVS), and Voice Over Internet Protocol Service (VoIP). Each of these services would be subject to its own set of arcane regulations, which are largely focused on shoehorning 21st-century services into a 20th-century regulatory framework.

Obviously, it would be great if Congress saw the light and passed genuine deregulation. But I think the odds of that are very, very low. And as I argue in the essay, the 1996 Telecom Act is now so out of touch with reality that it amounts to de facto deregulation, as the FCC just doesn’t have the authority to regulate the latest technologies. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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