Wednesday, March 2, 2016

FCC kludgeocracy

Tech scholar Brent Skorup pens an excellent critique of the FCC as a counterproductive mess of regulation. Tech policy is a huge area where liberal and libertarian approaches align, net neutrality notwithstanding. Liberals see economic failures, while libertarians see government failures. Both can rally around technocratic improvements to bureaucracy and policy. A few good quotes:

On spectrum allocation:
If members of Congress want localism, they should fund local journalism directly. Parts of the spectrum worth billions of dollars should not have been parceled out for free, with strings attached, to what is simply one of several distribution channels. Likewise, if Congress wants diverse sources of news and entertainment and children's programming, they should fund more programming, as they do through PBS and NPR. These outlets are reliable conservative irritants, but subsidized programming is far more honest and transparent, and ultimately less costly, than FCC regulation.
On the regulation of telecoms:
Congress does not fight hunger by paying construction companies to build grocery stores in needy areas, and it should not expand communications access via circuitous subsidies to carriers. To address hunger, federal and state governments provide individuals with vouchers earmarked for groceries — "food stamps" or SNAP — which allow them to satisfy their food needs as they see fit.
Conclusion:
The FCC pursues worthwhile goals — affordable access, diverse media viewpoints, competition — clumsily at best, and these should be reassigned to other agencies or accomplished via transparent subsidy programs, for the sake of both good government and free speech. Replacing many of the FCC's current responsibilities with a mixture of public-infrastructure investment to make broadband deployment easier, means-tested vouchers to minimize the digital divide, and increased, transparent funding for public affairs and local programming could attract pro-growth liberals as well as conservatives. Both the media and the country would be strengthened as a result.

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