When does deregulation become re-regulation?
To watch this happen in real time, take a close look at the Federal Communications Commission, which is poised to re-impose price regulation on a market for a nearly obsolete technology at its Nov. 17 public meeting.
The FCC has been looking to re-regulate this market since 2005.
How did we get here? In 2012, to help break the impasse, the FCC started collecting data, once again, in a surgical approach toward considering whether to regulate an emerging competitive and complex market.
Casting data and deliberation to the wind, the agency recently reversed course to instead embrace a machete-like approach that will lop off entire types of technology and declare all markets for business services un-competitive across the country.
Through a "fact sheet" the agency seeks to re-regulate legacy time-division multiplexed copper-based business communications services in all markets across the country, while ignoring its own market data showing vibrant competition in this market throughout the U.S. And it is pushing for a vote this month on whether to impose price regulation on all antiquated copper-based business services offered by incumbents nationwide.
No evidence exists on the lack of nationwide competition. Highlighting the absurdity of the FCC's approach, just focus on one issue in the agency's proceeding: fiber interoffice transport networks that competitive local exchange carriers and others deploy in competing to offer services to businesses.
The FCC's own data show that competitive providers offer transport networks in more than 95% of Census blocks where there is demand for business data services, covering about 99% of America's businesses. Even excluding cable company competitors from this analysis, limiting it just to CLECs, the comparable figures are 83% and 92%.
And, as one would expect, in the business centers of larger cities, there is even more competition. In many places, more than 20 different communications providers offer competitive transport services, but the FCC is still pushing for nationwide price regulation.
In fact, competition is so pervasive that not even CLEC competitors have called for nationwide price regulation on these services, yet the FCC wants to impose it anyway.
We appear to live in a world where an expert regulatory agency that doesn't like the results of the data it collects can just choose to ignore it.