Few economic sectors rival the technology and telecommunications industries in terms of how rapidly—and momentously—they have evolved. Across the globe, the Internet and high-tech firms have reshaped how we work, live, and interact with one another. Just three decades ago, only a sliver of the population could afford mobile phones, and the World Wide Web had not yet been invented. Today, there are more mobile devices in the world than there are people, and more than half of the world’s population uses the Internet. Massive investment in information technology and infrastructure has fueled innovation, greatly expanded global productivity, created tens of millions of high-skilled jobs around the world, and improved our lives in ways few could imagine two decades ago.
As technology evolves, new challenges invariably arise, including for policy makers. Establishing ill-conceived rules could stifle the high-tech economy, especially if lawmakers bow to pressure from influential business interests or self-proclaimed consumer advocates to saddle emerging technology markets with arbitrary regulations or draconian liability regimes. That does not mean that government officials should simply ignore disruptive innovations. To the contrary, newcomers who redefine existing markets—or create new markets—often merit a reevaluation of existing rules to eliminate governmental obstacles to innovation. As history shows, most concerns about novel technologies eventually prove unfounded or overblown, especially given our capacity to adapt to a changing world without help from central planners.
As lawmakers consider how to govern the technology and telecommunications sectors, new mandates or prohibitions should be avoided in all but the most exceptional circumstances. When new services or tools raise legitimate concerns about public health, consumer protection, or competition, lawmakers should resist the urge to act until they first observe how voluntary institutions—the marketplace and civil society—react to supposed market failures, if and when they arise. In the unlikely event that legislative intervention is necessary, Congress should change the law using a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.
At the same time, lawmakers should break out the sledgehammer when it comes to tearing down convoluted statutory and regulatory schemes devised in earlier eras— especially schemes administered by independent agencies, which in recent years have pulled out all the stops to remain relevant in a world in which they may no longer have a useful role to play.
In this chapter:
- Protect Internet Freedom against Burdensome Net-Neutrality Mandates
- Protect Privacy and Cybersecurity by Securing Private Information from Undue Government Prying
- Empower the Market to Protect Cybersecurity
- Modernize Regulation of Television and Media
- Update Copyright for the Internet Age
- Do Not Empower States to Be Able to Tax outside Their Borders