No more inaction

SILVER SPRING, MD — In recent years, said experts at the Freedom to Connect conference, regulators have chosen not to intervene in the markets, but that era of inaction is over. Three influential panelists at the Freedom To Connect conference said that the excuses that allowed regulators to do nothing in the past have gone, but predicted a challenging future.

Each of the three experts attacked the problem from a different direction. Derek Slater, policy analyst at Google in Mountain View said he’s working with engineers to obtain better data. Chris Savage, attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine, said that economic theory is changing. Jon Peha, CTO of the FCC, discussed specific concepts about rural broadband in America.

Savage said that the Chicago School of Economics has always assumed that markets deliver rational prices because human beings make rational purchase decisions.

Former FCC chief Kevin Martin described his philosophy in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute earlier this year. “I’ve approached our decisions with a fundamental belief that a robust competitive marketplace, not regulation, is ultimately the best protector for the public interest,” he said. “Government, however, still has an important and critical role to play. We need to create a regulatory environment that promotes investment and competition.”

Savage said that Martin had ignored human reality. “But let’s assume that we’re paying attention to the facts,” he said. “You’ll note that people make mistakes, and those mistakes are predictable.”

As soon as you admit that people don’t always make mistakes, you have created a role for the government. “If it is not obvious that competition provides the best results,” he said, “then maybe a regulated monopoly or public supply is better.”

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