Paul  Weyrich

If you were a Member of Congress and could vote on a measure which is projected to add 212,000 jobs to the economy over the next five years and to increase the GDP by more than $600 billion while simultaneously offering consumers more choices with a minor downside would you do it? Or better, why wouldn’t you do it? We should be asking Congress why it hasn’t acted to amend the telecommunications law when there would be so many benefits for doing so. Technology is rapidly advancing, especially in the communications industry.

When the original communications law was enacted in 1934 legislators had not heard of television. When the law last was revised, the Telecommunications Deregulation Act of 1996, technology such as on-demand television, iPods and text messaging was unknown to Members of Congress. Today millions of consumers use these new inventions yet government-managed competition has not kept pace with new technology. Telecommunications law was written for an era which no longer exists – an era in which consumers depended upon the telephone company for voice service, the cable company for video and then dial-up service to be connected to the Internet.

In relatively recent years most people had neither heard of nor subscribed to the Internet. Satellites had much less capacity and flexibility. There is no reason why we should tolerate government-managed competition which picks winners and losers in the world of communications.

There is no similarity to our American requirements for the approval of pharmaceutical industry products destined for human medical use. Our country has the strictest and most complicated procedures for testing and perfecting medicine. In stagnant Europe the marketplace determines in large measure what constitutes safe and beneficial medication. There is no analogy to telecommunications. Medicine deals with human life. Telecommunications deal with the user’s free choice.

Does Congress somehow think it is dangerous for consumers to make personal choices about telecommunications? The telecommunications market is highly competitive - no monopoly in that industry. Accordingly, individual decisions regarding those telecommunications products should be made by consumers rather than as a result of burdensome, unnecessary, heavy-handed government regulations. (Seventh graders capably could advise their parents about what communications equipment is indispensable.)

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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