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A hair-trigger standard for Net regulation? Rebutting the Business Week column

With all due respect to all the folks I read often at Business Week, I have to challenge the thinking behind Stephen Wildstrom's column in Business Week where he shares that he switched his year-long position opposing new net regulation, largely because of Verizon's admitted mistake in delaying by one-day a text messaging approval code to NARAL. 

After Verizon and the rest of the industry have handled literally billions upon billions of communications for years without significant similar incidents, one company makes an admitted mistake, takes full responsibility, immediately fixes it, changes its procedures so it won't happen again, -- and Mr Wildstrom's answer is to now throw the common-carrier regulatory book at Verizon and the whole industry? 

  • Might that not be a bit of an over-reaction? 
    • Could any business, including Business Week, live under an effective zero-tolerance policy for honest human mistakes?
  • If Mr. Wildstrom or Business Week committed a significant business or journalistic mistake, would it be fair for people to call  for a constitutional repeal of a free press? Of course not.
    • By the way, the courts/Supreme Court have long recognized that corporations, including Verizon, enjoy their own constitutonal protections of free speech.  
    • Moreover, as Mr. Wildstrom's acknowledged in his piece, existing law passed in 1996 already protects companies like Verizon from liability on matters like this.

I don't think Mr. Wildstrom really wants a system that discourages people and corporations from stepping forward and taking public responsibility for its actions and and from fixing their mistakes immediately.

  • It would be counter-productive to encourage immediate legal-defense-mode whenever any problem surfaces, so that every potential dispute has to clog the courts to get ultimate resolution.
    • Such a hair-trigger standard would produce exactly the opposite outcome Mr. Wildstrom wants.
  • I'm frankly surprised the column did not show more reticence about calling for the Government to preemptively restrict anyone's constitutionally-protected freedom of speech.
    • Our Founding Fathers accurately viewed the Government, not individuals or corporations, as the real threat to freedom of speech.   

Second, has our sense of proportion and basic fairness so crumbled away that we leap to lock-em-up conclusions for honest mistakes that people take full responsibility for?

  • Should the billions of communications that Verizon has and does deliver without incident warrant no mitigating consideration at all?
  • Should Verizon's immediate fixing of the problem not be evidence for why regulation is unnecessary?

In conclusion, I am compelled to challenge Mr. Wildstrom's conclusion that our Government's current "hands off approach hasn't served consumers well."

  • The core facts say otherwise:
    • The U.S. leads the world in the number of broadband subscribers and percent of broadband penetration (in an apples-to-apples comparision);
    • American broadband has been deployed and adopted nationally faster than any previous similar technology;
    • The U.S. has more facilities-based competition, choices and investment than any nation in the world; and
    • The U.S. wireless industry has the lowest prices and most usage in the world (four times better than Europe.)
      • Is it really fair to conclude that this free-market, "hands-off approach has not served consumers well"?
      • Of course not.
      • It has served consumers remarkably well.