Originally published: August 7, 2014
Last updated: August 7, 2014 - 10:03pm
[Commentary] One of the most persistent lies told in Washington is the notion that common carriage is a heavy-handed regulation that transforms innovative businesses into antiquated, government-run utilities.
Any mention of restoring this time-tested principle to the Internet causes fits among phone and cable industry lobbyists. It's a debate now raging throughout the record number of comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission, which has put the issue of common carriage back "on the table" as it weighs new rules to protect network neutrality.
Actually, according to settled law, common carriage applies to any carrier that "holds itself out... to carry for all people indifferently." This makes common carriage "of substantial social value," Columbia University economist Eli Noam wrote in a 1994 paper in which he accurately predicted industry efforts to kill the standard.
"It extends free speech principles to privately owned carriers. It is an arrangement that promotes interconnection, encourages competition, assists universal service and reduces transaction costs."
[Karr is Senior Director of Strategy, Free Press]