Chairman Waxman on USF & Net Neutrality

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over media regulation, network neutrality, mergers, antitrust, trade, and a whole host of other issues that effect America’s high technology industry.  So what can we expect Henry Waxman to do as he takes the helm at Energy & Commerce in the House?

Waxman has been an outspoken proponent of the Universal Service Fund, a program riddled with waste and fraud. Though Waxman has tried to hold companies more accountable for the use of money from the fund—intended to help supply telephone service to people in rural areas—a better policy would be to eliminate it altogether. The notion that rural areas need to be wired with copper lines is outdated. Congress should be pursuing larger reforms that would enable efficient wireless broadband deployment–a much better solution for connectivity in America’s rural areas.

The same applies to network neutrality.Waxman has stated he supports network neutrality, but that he also believes there should be more competition in the ISP market. The latter is a much better policy to pursue than the former.

Neutrality proponents would have us believe that the best network is a dumb one—one that isn’t managed by the ISP—but this runs counter to much of the common wisdom on network management. But eliminating network management as an option for ISPs leaves them with fewer business models for charging for broadband access.

Waxman will likely be pivotal in helping President-elect Obama pursue a network neutrality policy, but rather than amending bad regulation with new regulation, Congress should seek to reform franchising laws and move toward a market system in wireless spectrum.

Ryan Radia, CEI Information Policy Analyst, will have more on what to expect from Chairman Waxman on technology policy in a forthcoming post.