The following statement is for today’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet hearing on “Ensuring Competition on the Internet: Net Neutrality and Antitrust,” and may be attributed to Mike Wendy, Director of MediaFreedom.org:
Alexandria, VA, May 5, 2011 – Were there an actual problem with the Internet – that companies restrict output, unreasonably increase costs, limit innovation, bedevil service and tortiously interfere with competitors – then today’s hearing might actually serve some good. Last I checked, however, the Internet ecosystem grows virtually unabated, free from the aforementioned antitrust parade of horribles.
This has not stopped public interest groups (PIG) from spreading their FUD. Since the ‘96 Telecom Act, numerous PIG voices have caterwauled that the sky is falling; that America is just one merger, naughty business practice or self-dealing opportunity away from the death of the Internet.
The facts speak differently, of course.
The evolution of technology, industry best practices, consumer tools, intermodal competition, reputation management and current antitrust enforcement tools have all worked famously to foster affordable Internet access, nearly ubiquitously spread across America. This is not to mention the seemingly endless stream of innovative services, applications, devices and content offerings, which could not occur but for a healthy and vibrant medium.
Policymakers would do well to have humility and avoid wielding antitrust law as a cudgel to “perfect” markets. Consumer harm – real, not imagined – must remain the touchstone to any enforcement action for correcting ostensible competitive malfeasance.
Thankfully, the Internet ecosystem works, and consumers have reaped immense benefit as a result. Hopefully, legislators will see this, too, and take a pass on urging new antitrust laws, regulations or “mindsets” to “fix” the exceptionally hardy medium.