As the FCC prepares for its February vote on net neutrality, and Congress formulates its own plan of action, what can we anticipate? That depends on whether the net neutrality opponents or proponents win. The bottom line is that net neutrality opponents are against the government defining the boundaries of an industry, at least without substantial evidence that firms are harming customers. Conversely, proponents want government to define the industry by limiting what ISPs can offer to their customers. We have been down this road many times before in telecommunications. As I describe below, the US history of placing boundaries on what telecommunications can be includes the 1956 Consent Decree, the FCC’s three Computer Inquiries, the breakup of AT&T, efforts in Pennsylvania and other states to create wholesale-only telcos, and network unbundling. These attempts to create a regulatory-defined industry all unraveled. Their dynamics tell us what we can expect once the FCC and/or Congress act.
Read “Net neutrality: Déjà vu all over again” on AEI.