Wednesday, April 26, 2017

FCC Chair Pai wrongly describes natural monopoly of telecom infrastructure as competitive market

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Why He's Rejecting Net Neutrality Rules - If left in place, however, the Title II rules could harm the commercial internet, which Pai described as "one of the most incredible free market innovations in history. Companies like Google and Facebook and Netflix became household names precisely because we didn't have the government micromanaging how the internet would operate," said Pai, who noted that the Clinton-era decision not to regulate the Internet like a phone utility or a broadcast network was one of the most important factors in the rise of our new economy.
Companies like Google (excepting Google Fiber's now defunct venture into fiber to the premise service), Facebook and Netflix aren't network providers. Consequently, they don't face the high costs associated with building and operating telecommunications infrastructure serving homes, businesses and institutions that deters market competition and promotes market failure.
Ajit Pai: The funny thing about that is because it's precisely because the phone company was a slow moving monopolist. That's exactly the point we're trying to make. These rules, Title II rules were designed to regulate Ma Bell, and the promise with Ma Bell, the deal with the government was, we'll give you a monopoly as long as you give universal service to the country. As a result, for decades, we didn't see innovation in the network we didn't see innovation in phones and it's when you have a competitive marketplace and you let go of that impulse to regulate everything preemptively, that you finally get to see more of a competitive environment.
Pai is engaging in the distortion of describing the natural monopoly market that telecommunications infrastructure is as a competitive market. Wishing it were competitive won't make it so. The cost barriers to entry are simply too high. Just ask Google Fiber. Or the 34 million Americans who have experienced sell side market failure, their homes and small business not offered landline connections capable of delivering high-quality voice, data, graphics and video, according to figures released by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in 2016. Market failure is hardly an indicator of a robustly competitive market.

Pai's predecessor Tom Wheeler indulged in the misguided notion that telecom infrastructure could be competitive market, even though the FCC under his leadership adopted the 2015 Open Internet rulemaking predicated on regulating Internet service as a natural monopoly, classifying it as a common carrier telecommunications utility.

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