Lee compares the current Network neutrality debate to the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887 to regulate railroads, the high-tech industry of the day. The ICC quickly fell under the control of the railroads, gradually transforming the American transportation industry into a cartel. By 1935, when it was given oversight of the trucking industry, the commission was restricting competition and enabling price increases throughout virtually the entire surface transportation industry. Decades later, in 1970, a report released by a Ralph Nader group described the commission as “a forum at which transportation interests divide up the national transportation market.” With several promising new technologies on the drawing board, the market for broadband will grow only more competitive. Congress should let the marketplace develop rather than constrain it with regulation. Lawmakers should certainly be mindful of unintended consequences. The Interstate Commerce Commission’s regulations on transportation lingered for decades after their usefulness expired. Any neutrality regulations passed by Congress this year are likely to have a similarly dismal future. Choice and competition will do a better job of protecting Internet consumers than government bureaucrats ever have.
Update: Net neutrality: the electricity analogy from BrianWill.net