Larry Downes: Title II Disrupts the Disruptors

Larry Downes, project director of the Evolution of Regulation and Innovation project at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy, says the FCC should reclassify internet access as an information service and jettison the vague general conduct standard, both of which FCC chairman Ajit Pai has proposed doing.

Downes says the Title II classification was less about consumer harms and more about political expediency and "rent-seeking" by the competitors to ISPs.

But the focus of his comments was on the FCC's request, in issuing the public notice on the Title II rollback and rule rethink, for input on the risks of Title II to innovation.

Downes cites four ways in which the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order—which was based on Title II—damages the kind of disruptive innovation and characterizes entrepreneurship: 

1). It slowed the pace of innovation; 2) utility regs are designed for companies that don't compete or innovate; 3) the "know it when we see it" vagueness of the general conduct standard trumps permissionless innovation with pre-emptive regulation, and 4) it "dangerously" skews innovations in network management and architecture.

"Undoing reclassification will once again permit maximum innovation with the lowest possible risk of unintended consequences from well-intentioned but inherently slower and costly regulatory interventions," he said, while restoring jurisdiction to the Federal Trade Commission.

(Photo via Frankieleon's FlickrImage taken on Feb. 14, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.