FCC Commissioner Simington Maiden Speech to the Free State Foundation

While the present day may not be perfect, I don’t think anyone disputes that we have fulfilled the promise of the deregulatory era. Prior to the Telecom Act, it was far from a foregone conclusion that we would graduate to a more efficient, competitive system. A change in national direction could have sent us back to the incumbent-driven system of midcentury. Instead, we came together, chose the free market and a light regulatory touch, and a quarter century of transformative innovation speaks to the wisdom of this choice.

We can’t talk meaningfully about freedom, free markets, or deregulation in telecommunications without mentioning net neutrality. [M]y biggest worry about Title II is really that, after a few years of chilling effects on infrastructure construction, we will find ourselves in an entirely avoidable and artificial broadband infrastructure crisis. And, if we experience a chill to construction incentives at the very moment that demand is dramatically escalating, I worry that free market solutions will seem impossible – not because the corporate sector is incapable or greedy, but because they’ve been put in a regulatory bind. This will generate calls for a government-led solution, because the problem of capacity will be a genuine problem, even if it is rooted in regulatory choices. I’d prefer to avoid a government-led solution by not precipitating the problem in the first place. This isn’t from some sort of general-principles aversion to government activity, but from concern about the state becoming the infrastructure financier of first resort. 

I hope Title II advocates, currently politically in the ascendant, will work with those of us who have concerns in the Mertonian spirit of disinterested, collegial common pursuit of sound public policy, unbeholden to any slogan or faction. And I pledge to talk to anyone who wants to talk about this, to bring a respectful, open, mind to the conversation, and to do my best to understand everyone’s concerns, because mutual trust and confidence is the basis of progress here as anywhere.

Commissioner Simington Maiden Speech to the Free State Foundation