The internet champions “permissionless innovation,” the ability to develop new services without tedious negotiation and approval. As the Federal Communications Commission makes its third attempt to develop a fair, coherent, and lawful regulatory policy for the internet’s broadband on-ramps, it can either apply this principle or it can adopt Title II — a contrary rule that once limited the pace of innovation in the historic telephone network.
Much of the internet establishment, many ordinary citizens, and even some cable network comedians urge implementing Title II without acknowledging the harm it’s likely to cause. The father of net neutrality, Columbia law professor Tim Wu, is an exception: he admits that “excessive regulation can stagnate an industry” even while preferring monopoly-style regulation for increasingly competitive broadband networks.
A historical precedent
There is no clearer example of stagnation than traditional telephone service. Since the passage of the Communications Act in 1934, telephone service…
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