Stevens-Inouye Proves a Big Disappointment

Some Libertarian and free market analysts are trying hard to see something positive in the working draft of the “Communications, Consumer’s Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006,” released Monday by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I can’t blame them. There’s been a lot of work done toward moving telecom policy reform forward through Congress, and of all the bills proposed so far, this may actually get to a floor vote. Sure, no one gets everything they want, but I cop to complete disappointment with what’s emerged. Let’s not accept “any reform” as “good reform” The draft bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI), does make a certain amount of progress toward network neutrality and leveling the playing field between cable and telephone companies when it comes to video services. There’s some interesting back-and-forth at the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF) blog, where Adam Thierer expresses the same unease that I have, although Randy May commends the bill’s approach to network neutrality. True, the bill’s “Study First, Mandate Later” approach is better than Barton-Rush, the bill’s loose counterpart in the House. But this small provision is dwarfed by the overall thrust of this massive 135-page bill which, when all is said and done, attempts to extend the current costly, unproductive and largely unworkable regulatory regime into broadband. A lot more can be done with a lot less.