Society and Culture, Media and Technology

Are We Un-learning the Lessons of History? (Wireless Edition)

The indispensable RealClear mentions the FCC is going to be taking a closer look at the wireless industry and this is

potentially the first step toward more regulations intended to push down prices and increase choices for consumers.

It seems we are undergoing a great un-learning. As Steve Hayward pointed out on the blog (“Teddy Was Right”), one thing Ted Kennedy got right in his legislative career was a big push for deregulation. These deregulatory efforts lowered prices for consumers and increased choices (think airline dereg, for example). Kennedy’s efforts were informed by the law and economics revolution that swept legal and economics circles in the ’60s and ’70s (see Chris DeMuth’s remarks here for a sense of AEI’s role in that effort).

One lesson of that era is that the burden of proof is high on those who believe regulations will push down prices and increase choices (when in fact they tend to do the opposite).

Which brings us to today’s wireless. It is hard to think of an industry that has offered more innovation and choices to consumers in recent years. To illustrate, one frequent critic of the wireless industry, Tim Wu, published a paper two years ago lamenting all the things the wireless industry failed to offer customers. Take a look here. Two years later, most of those things are now product offerings. And no regulation was required. There’s an important lesson in that.

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