Is information a resource such that we should expect government to regulate its extraction? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. While we gather information for free with our eyes and ears and exchange this information during conversations with friends, family, and co-workers, it is when these information exchanges take place in the commercial space is when we should expect government to regulate.
Americans should expect information services for hire to be regulated. Government licenses private actors to extract, manage, and distribute resources and put goods and services based on these resources into the market for sale. Information is treated no differently. Because of concerns regarding free speech and privacy, for the most part, content is not regulated, but government does attempt to regulate other aspects of information exchange including pricing and the deployment of infrastructure on which information is traded.
As the Federal Communications Commission considers whether to reclassify regulation of broadband access as an information service versus its current regulatory status as a Title II telecommunications service, be mindful that the issue is still regulation. Whether broadband access is treated as a 20th century, two-way voice communications service or as a 21st century internet protocol, text-data-voice-video service, it will still be regulated. Unless the State is going to disappear tomorrow, government regulation is not going anywhere.
The FCC and Congress should recognize that the value of information as a resource is best extracted when parties are left alone to determine the price for exchanging data. If a consumer doesn’t wish to trade data on a certain network at a certain price, they can exchange data on another network under that networks terms and conditions. By regulating price, the FCC and Congress would risk creating false price signals for the data trade markets, a danger that arises under Title II regulation.
The best approach to regulating broadband access services? A hands off approach, especially as it pertains to pricing….