The Digital Age Communications Act (DACA) of 2005, introduced last week by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), represents Congress' best and soundest approach to federal and state telecom policy reform so far.
Rather than attempt to shoehorn regulations designed for era of monopoly phone service to fit a competitive market for integrated broadband services, DACA is a ground-up restructuring of the regulatory regime. It calls for a "single, unified, minimally pervasive" approach to telecom regulation. The bill has a great starting pointâ€“it does not create a lengthy glossary of service provider categories. The legislation simply addresses providers of "electronic communications networks." No more, no less.
Just as it recognizes the reality of the new competitive industry, the DACA legislation also recognizes that a competition serves consumers best. It seeks to end price regulation, discriminatory taxation and unnecessary subsidies that support obsolete business models and prevent new investment to take root. At the forefront of this is the bill's dramatic new plan for universal service, built on the principles of affordability, efficiency, technological neutrality and transparency.
DACA is by far the boldest among the telecommunications bills introduced in Congress. Yet ironically, it is also the simplest. It seeks neither to shackle service providers nor coddle them. The bill respects market forces and does not assume that, to create opportunities for one group, the government needs to penalize others.
Instead DACA provides the industry as a whole with the necessary freedom and flexibility that is desperately needed to move forward toward creating an environment of rich, affordable and ubiquitous service.
The DACA bill draws heavily from work spearheaded by the Progress & Freedom Foundation, which in its course sought input from a number of policy analysts, including myself, at free market think tanks across the country. Much of that work, as well as analysis, comments and blogging, can be found here.