February 21, 2003

OLD VS. NEW:

Profile in Conservative Courage (James K. Glassman, Feb. 21, 2003, Jewish World Review)
After months of noisy foreplay, Michael Powell has failed to produce. Today, one Republican and two Democrat members of the Federal Communications Commission forged a new working majority and thwarted their own chairman's plan to strip states of their power--and the four giant Bell companies of their telecom competitors.

The FCC decision was important. It means that the process of deregulation, begun with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, supported by every
conservative in the House and Senate, can continue. The Bells, the established regional monopolies in local service, have now entered the long-distance business in 70 percent of the states, and smaller competitive local exchange carriers, or CLECs, are now battling the Bells in the local arena and broadband, or fast Internet connections. The result: lower prices and better services for families and small businesses.

But with today's vote - an unusual and some would say humiliating defeat for the chairman of a powerful independent agency - the recriminations have
begun.

In an embarrassingly intemperate statement, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the FCC decision "another body blow to the American economy" and heaped personal vituperation on Kevin Martin, the Republican who opposed Powell, calling him "a renegade" and the perpetrator of "a palace coup" and saying that "reform had been stabbed in the back." [...]

Well before the vote, the game for pro-Bell politicians and analysts has been to attack Martin - and any other Republican who opposes their position--as being disloyal to conservative principles.

But what do you call someone who says that the states, rather than the federal government, should make local decisions? Someone who believes that
competition, not Washington-dictated industrial policy, should determine winners and losers? Someone who thinks that investors need certainty before
committing their capital? Someone who believes that, when Congress passes a law, it should mean what it says, not what a group of changeable regulators opines?

I would call someone like that a conservative. [...]

Still, the Bells were not completely shut out. They did get what they wanted in broadband. And now they have to perform. They have to prove that they
will make the kind of investments in fast Internet connections that they have promised. We'll see.


Just hearing this on the radio this morning it sounded like they'd given the pols the right to regulate the old technology and deregulated the new. That seems like a reasonable deal. Let the bureaucrats tinker with something that's already dying and leave the future alone. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2003 7:47 PM
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