Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:36am
[Commentary] Under Chairman Julius Genachowski, Al Gore's old friends at the Federal Communications Commission are out to reinvent the Internet.
In the name of a bogus crisis in broadband deployment, the FCC is today lathering on an array of network stimuli and subsidies as part of a new "National Broadband Plan" that will transform this current font of U.S. economic growth into a consumer of taxes and a playground for pettifogs. This subsidy plan comes on top of previous ill-defined "network neutrality" requirements that would bar carriers from charging different prices for different forms of Internet content. Whether spam, TV programs, pornography, stolen video, movie downloads, streaming games, cyberwar intrusions or sensitive voice services, carriers of Internet packets could not discriminate among them. The FCC's new regulatory regime amounts to a kind of cap and trade for the Internet: It will cap Internet growth and restrict Internet trade. The likely winners are lawyers and special interests leeching off the telecom and Internet industries.
A 2007 study by the Brookings Institution's Robert Crandall, William Lehr and Robert Litan estimated that every one percentage point increase in broadband subscriptions by U.S. households yields nearly 300,000 new jobs. Do we really want to jeopardize this industry's cornucopia of growth?
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