Federal Communcations Commission broadband coordinator Blair Levin, charged with coming up with a “U.S. National Broadband Plan,” by February, says the 8,500 pages of comments (surely he’s read them all) received so far exhibit “sloppiness” and “”lack of seriousness and purpose,” and contain “very little in the 8,500-something pages that moves the ball forward.” Perhaps he has something better in mind. Here at CEI we filed initial comments, then again in the reply comment phase, for which the deadline was Tuesday the 21st.
Our take must be regarded as least serious of all, since we cling to the now-marginalized view that central governments ought not impose “national plans” in the first place; that the original spectrum scarcities that originally spawned the FCC are far less relevant today; that the agency should be vastly shrunken, and minor residual regulatory functions and disciplines be turned over to competitive enterprise, or at the worst the Federal Trade Commission (a general, not specific industry, regulator). The communications marketplace needs liberalization, not new and layered management from above, and the comment phase on the National Plan is an opportunity to make that case.
Unfounded regulation and “national plans” are damaging for the same reason all central economic planning is bad. It’s much deeper than a failure to know the price to set for any particular service, or where new communcations services ought to be deployed across a vast nation. Tacit knowledge of individuals about proper prices to be set and appropriate service areas to energize are not accessible to external observers and regulators; they emerge from the competitive process itself. And knowledge of past prices and market conditions are not predictors of the future in any way.
Regulation either sets quantity or price of goods or services; “market-based” approaches typically favor quantity standard that allows price to fluctuate. But there are grave problems with the government steering while the market rows. The communications system can end up embodying something entirely different that what simple free enterprise would have delivered more effectively.
As the Austrian economists tell us, without respect for private ownership and control of the means of production, and the human interactions that take place in competition for them, there cannot exist economic calculation and rational allocation of resources generally; but that’s especially true for cutting edge technolgies like communications that are so in need of liberalization. So for my part, it’s the belief in central planning itself that I consider “sloppy.”