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Politicians and Entrepreneurs: Let Internet Flourish without Burden of Government Regulation

Speaking on the subject of net neutrality regulation, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said in a hearing Wednesday that, in his experience, “regulation generally stifles rather than facilitates, competition and innovation. “

That lack of innovation was the central characteristic of the telecommunications industry for decades under the Federal Communications Commission’s heavy-handed regulation. Industry innovator (and litigant against the FCC) Dan Berninger recently put it this way: “In the old world, the telephone network had a fixed service. It literally didn’t do anything different or new from 1934 to 1996, when the Internet came along – there was no important new service.  It didn’t add new value.”

Chairman Goodlatte, in an effort to push back against the net neutrality regulations in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, went on to offer up the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust authority as an executive agency substitute. He said, ”Ultimately, I am open to the idea of amending the antitrust laws, if necessary, to account for the characteristics of the Internet.”  

On that note, we go back to Berninger, who has to actually operate in the telecommunications marketplace: “But you have to ask – what value are these regulations adding?  The answer is none, but we know from the past that the regulator created the monopolist.”  CEI agrees and my colleague Wayne Crews has written extensively on the lack of natural monopolies, but the very real (and harmful) politically created monopolies in other network industries.

That astute observation begs the question: if government is the creator of monopolies and regulation the suppressor of innovation, why not push back against FCC and FTC regulation of the Internet?