02/01/2016 - Colloquium Presentation, Barbara Cherry: Historical Distortion: How Misuse of “Public Utility and “Natural Monopoly” Misdirects U.S. Telecommunications Policy Development
From David Price
“Public utility” and “natural monopoly” have been misused in U.S. telecommunications policy debates. Opponents of network neutrality mischaracterize common carriage regulation as “public utility” regulation and unnecessary given the absence of monopoly power. In its Open Internet Order (2015), the FCC classifi ed commercial broadband Internet access service as a common carriage “telecommunications service,” relying on the analysis in a research paper by Cherry and Peha (2014). Yet, the FCC’s Order may not be a politically stable outcome, as it is under appeal and subject to Congressional legislation; and there are continuing state and federal developments related to technology transitions. This paper is intended to inform ongoing policy debates by explaining how misuse of the public utility and natural monopoly concepts is driven by gaps in knowledge within and among the economic and legal professions, undermining the validity of ostensibly academic analyses and misinforming development of policy recommendations.