The Digital Age Communications Act (DACA) of 2005, introduced last week by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), represents Congress' best and soundest approach to federal and state telecom policy reform so far.
Rather than attempt to shoehorn regulations designed for an era of monopoly phone service to fit a competitive market for integrated broadband services, DACA is a ground-up restructuring of the regulatory regime. It calls for a "single, unified, minimally pervasive" approach to telecom regulation.
The bill has a great starting point--it does not create a lengthy glossary of service provider categories. It simply addresses providers of "electronic communications networks." No more, no less.
Just as it recognizes the reality of the new competitive industry, the DACA legislation also recognizes a competitive market serves consumers best. The measure seeks to end price regulation, discriminatory taxation, and unnecessary subsidies that support obsolete business models and prevent new investment from taking root. At the forefront of this is the bill's dramatic new plan for universal service.
DACA is by far the boldest among the telecommunications bills introduced in Congress. Yet ironically, it is also the simplest. It seeks neither to shackle service providers nor coddle them. The bill respects market forces and does not assume that, to create opportunities for one group, the government must penalize others.
Instead, DACA provides the industry as a whole with the freedom and flexibility desperately needed to move forward toward creating an environment of rich, affordable, and ubiquitous service.
Steven Titch (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior fellow - IT and telecom policy for The Heartland Institute, a national nonprofit organization based in Chicago. Among other publications, Heartland publishes IT&T News, a monthly newsletter addressing technology and telecommunications policy issues. For more information, call Ralph Conner, public affairs director, 312/377-4000, or email him at email@example.com.