Futurist Internet

Lessons from history

John Berresford, Attorney for Media Bureau at FCC, just published a draft on the webpage for Harvard Program for Information Resources Policy. It is called “How Government Can Bring New Communications to All Americans: Six1 Lessons from History Discovered by a Libertarian”. (via Dave Farber’s IP list)Executive Summary

The article examine what the US governments have done with new communications technologies in the past. Specially, it recounts the history of

a) how telephone service got into everyone home
b) how government “cleaned-up” radio in the 20-30s
c) how government setup over-the-air tv and stunned cable tv
d) the causes and effect of the Bell system breakup

It examines, in each case, what the government did and refrained from doing that sped or slowed new technologies getting to all American. From these histories, six five lessons are draw about what actions by the government produced and did not produce, good results2.

i) The government should, if possible, limit its roles to fixing obvious, persistent and substaintial problems, especially entrenched and unresponsive monopolies.

ii) The government should avoid regulating a monopoly in the hopes of making it “The Good Monopoly”. Instead, devote resources to promote competition and abundance.

iii) The government should wait until the technology is matured and accepted by consumers before declaring it as “universal entitlement” (e.g. universal service).

iv) The government should not suppress speech and creativity in broadcast content. Probably the best thing it can do for freedom of expression is nothing.

v) The government should welcome disruptive and unpredictable, even chaotic new technologies. Suppressing them so as not to distrib The Good Monopoly is likely to hurt consumer in the long run.

1 The title say “six” but I could only count “five”.

2 “Good Results” are defined as putting into the hands of the greatest number of consumers quickly and cheaply, high-quality-service with maximum competition, choice, innovation and freedom of expression.

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