"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Notes From the Bizarro World (Michael Powell Edition) 

Michael Powell seems to have gotten confused about one of the bedrock principles of free market orthodoxy. From AP:
Chairman Michael Powell said Tuesday that he would seek broad regulatory authority for the federal government over Internet-based telephone services to avoid stifling the emerging market.

Powell told a receptive audience at an industry conference that letting states regulate Voice over Internet Protocol,or VoIP, services would lead to a patchwork of conflicting rules like those which have ensnarled the traditional phone business for decades.

To do so, Powell said, "is to dumb down the Internet back to the limited vision of government officials. That would be a tragedy."

Oh, Michael, Michael, Michael - where to begin.

First, while I don't necessarily see government regulation as the death knell for all worthwhile human endeavor, you might want to run this one past the boys upstairs before you circulate it too widely. I'm just not sure "we had to regulate the industry to avoid stifling it" will sell to the base, that's all.

Second, could you remind me again how it is that the telephone industry - which provides a product that has generally worked pretty well for the last century or so, and made a lot of people very wealthy in the process - gets held out as an example of an industry that has been hopelessly "ensnarled" by regulation?

Third, and finally, could you please explain to me how federal regulation of VoIP will insulate it from "the limited vision of government officials?" Am I reading too much into this if I infer that you think federal government officials are a lot smarter than state government offcials? I'm not looking to trip you up here, so before you answer, remember that your party was the one getting all excited about "the new federalism" a few years back.

Look, you're free to adopt whatever ideological filters you want. All I'm saying is, if you're going to go and fundamentally alter the governing paradigm (and stuff), could you at least cover me on the memo first?




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