More on Net Neutrality: Can the FCC Be a Good Antitrust Enforcer?

Lynne Kiesling

Welcome to those of you who found your way here via Brad DeLong’s very kind link to my earlier post linking to the Weiser-Atkinson “third way” paper.

Some comments in response to the comments on Brad’s post: I am as skeptical of the FCC’s ability to engage in correct antitrust enforcement as anyone (probably more so, actually). My read of Weiser-Atkinson is that they are skeptical too, so not as Polly-anna-ish as the comments suggest. If I may be a little unkind, reading through to the last five pages of their paper would have made that apparent.

One option that Weiser-Atkinson suggest is invoking the consumer protection/antitrust jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission as an alternative to FCC enforcement. I prefer a light-handed approach to regulation, and I agree with Weiser and Atkinson that ex ante preemptive regulation typically deters innovation, which is a large cost to pay to get so-called “consumer protection” in return. The FTC approach is more (not perfectly, but more) consistent with that perspective than the FCC approach.

If this antitrust perspective is the better way to go, and I think it is, and if the FCC can’t be trusted to do it, then they shouldn’t have jurisdiction. It’s not clear that they want it, either, given how broadband has been classified. Cool, that may minimize the bureaucratic wailing and gnashing of teeth if the FTC is brought in to the story.


2 thoughts on “More on Net Neutrality: Can the FCC Be a Good Antitrust Enforcer?

  1. Hi Lynne, indeed, that argument has been made:

    http://www.telepocalypse.net/archives/000905.html

    If we consider net neutrality to be a primarily technical issue, perhaps it is for the FCC. But personally, I cannot abide by the FCC dictating technology protocols, except in rare cases.

    If we consider net neutrality to be a market issue, then the FTC is the right place.

    Most of the neutrality proponents are basing their argument on claims of monopoly/duopoly/oligopoly. Thus, if they were serious in their arguments, they would be arguing jurisdiction. They are not particularly serious, though.

    (I wonder how many competititors it will take to no longer be an -opoly, btw?)

    You’re also right that, amid all the merits pro and con, this is netting out to be a turf war: http://www.onlyrepublican.com/orinsf/2006/05/neutrality_pred.html

  2. The better question than “Could the FCC …” is “Should the FCC …”. The FCC’s experience is in “herding” “natural monopolies”, not in detecting / preventing un-“natural monopolies”. The only prospect worse than regulation by federal “experts” is regulation by federal amateurs.

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