Thierer Offers Priorities for Telecom Act Rewrite
WASHINGTON D.C. - Telecom law is increasingly in conflict with marketplace realities and in some cases is holding back new technologies, writes Progress & Freedom Foundation senior fellow Adam Thierer. In "Four More Years... Of the Status Quo? How Simple Principles Can Lead Us Out of the Regulatory Wilderness," published in the Federal Communications Law Journal, Thierer spells out priorities for lawmakers in a Telecom Act rewrite. Thierer, as always with PFF fellows, is writing for himself, but he also is participating in the Digital Age Communications Act (DACA), a wide-ranging effort aimed at rewriting telecom law that is co-chaired by PFF President Ray Gifford and Senior Fellow and Director of Communications Studies Randolph May.
"A simple paradox summarizes what was most wrong about [the Telecom Act]," writes Thierer: "Congress wanted market competition but did not trust the free market enough to tell regulators to step aside and allow markets to function on their own." Thierer urges lawmakers to consider three arching themes when rewriting telecom law: rationalize regulatory classifications, sort out jurisdictional matters, and get agency power and size under control. He has another bit of advice: "Keep it simple! Simple principles and rules should guide their reform efforts. Do not try to appease every interest with specific language; craft the new rules such that they are generally applicable to all players."
PFF has gathered academics, fellows from various think tanks, and former policymakers from the last five presidential administrations together in its DACA effort. Five separate working groups -- regulatory framework, spectrum policy, universal service/social policy, federal/state framework and institutional reform -- are crafting model language that PFF hopes to present to Congress this fall. Leaders in the House and Senate both are focused on rewriting the 1996 Telecom Act to reflect the convergence of new technologies in today's communications marketplace.
"Regulatory reform is no longer merely an option," writes Thierer, "it is essential if lawmakers want to make sure that the laws governing this important sector keep pace with the rapidly changing times." Thierer hopes that "regardless of who leads the reform charge in coming years -- the Bush administration or congressional lawmakers -- that they will reject the many doomsdayers and naysayers in the telecom sector who claim the sky will fall without incessant regulatory oversight and intervention. The 'Chicken Little complex' seems to run rampant throughout this sector even though it is less warranted than ever before."
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.