PBS’s 90-minute Ad for Internet Regulation

by on October 18, 2006 · 10 comments

Bill Moyers has an incredibly one-sided special on PBS tonight on telecom policy. So far, about halfway through the program, the anti-regulatory side has been represented by Mike McCurry and one Republican Congressman. McCurry was billed as a lobbyist for the telecom industry, and his every sentence was followed by a rebuttal from a pro-regulatory representative. The pro-regulatory side has gotten roughly a dozen representatives, none of whom were labeled as lobbyists for Google or Microsoft. They got lengthy interviews consisting mostly of softball questions.

Astonishingly, Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America cited the Interstate Commerce Act, which imposed nondiscrimination rules on the railroad industry, as a model for network neutrality regulation. As I explained in the New York Times back in August, they’d be wise to pick a different example:

After President Grover Cleveland appointed Thomas M. Cooley, a railroad ally, as its first chairman, the commission quickly fell under the control of the railroads, gradually transforming the American transportation industry into a cartel. By 1935, when it was given oversight of the trucking industry, the commission was restricting competition and enabling price increases throughout virtually the entire surface transportation industry. Decades later, in 1970, a report released by a Ralph Nader group described the commission as “a forum at which transportation interests divide up the national transportation market.”

Of course, viewers of Moyers’s show didn’t hear that side of the story, as they didn’t bother to ask any critics of regulation to respond to Cooper’s arguments.

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