Art Black responds to Bruce Owen on Net Neutrality

Bruce Owen's article makes some reasonable points, but is rife with the old Cato Institute "trust my biased analysis perspective". He makes a lot of statements intended to reflect historical fact that just have not been objectively substantiated.

FACT: Net Neutrality is a really bad term for the issues that should be debated and resolved objectively.

FACT: Net Neutrality, whether an appropriate law or regulatory mechanism can be adopted or not, should be about "market overhang and control". To pooh-pooh the issue is to say it's OK for Wal-Mart to own the toll road that customers use to reach Wal-Mart and Target stores, charge customers a toll, restrict traffic to and from Target, and replace Target traffic directing signs with Wal-Mart signs.

To rely on the FTC and other government agencies to police business activity, given today's political environment just won't work. Federal authorities and Congressmen need a mechanism to protect themselves from themselves. Otherwise, they are for sale to the highest bidder. Just like frequency spectrum.

Arguing that "Net Neutrality" is anti-innovation and anti-consumer is equally a red herring, and just flat incorrect. Just the opposite is true.

FACT: The 1982 Settlement occurred because AT&T wanted it. They feared that rapidly changing technology under the existing rules would doom them to being mere common carrier transport providers as others delivered the Information Age. They also mistakenly thought they had the cost structures and marketing know-how to succeed in the computer business and had to escape the regulatory handcuffs to do so.

FACT: The Telecom Reform Act of 1996 was a tech-bubble scam perpetrated by Wall Street that had no chance of realizing its claimed objectives for competition in the last mile. Peter Huber said it best in his book. It just took a while for the economic model to be shown as horribly flawed.

We are still pretending to be efficiently operating under that model.

FACT: AT&T had been handcuffed from introducing new technology and services for twenty years. They were on a fast pace with new technology and had the resources and experience to get it right earlier than anyone else could have. There was nothing cumbersome or delaying about their approach. But they had a national asset - the public network to operate and maintain.

Whatever rules current service providers follow to keep consumers connected and protected still follow from the "old days of regulation". There are no new mechanisms to replace them.

We don't need anymore duplicitous, self-serving laissez-faire economics. Everyone's integrity is for sale these days.

Fiddling while Rome burns should be passe.