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Democracy and Technology Blog State Telecom Policy Matters

Oklahoma’s telecom regulators appear on the verge of loosening or eliminating many of the state’s price controls. SBC, the state’s main telecom company, said it would immediately deploy DSL service in 68 new communities and would upgrade all 208 of its switching centers in the state by 2007.

Many regulators and state legislators call this practice — of investing in new technology when outdated regulations are relaxed — a quid pro quo threat. The rest of the world just calls it good business. In today’s competitive communications marketplace, too-big-for-their-britches state utility regulators cannot force companies to make large unprofitable investments. Governors, state legislators, and utility regulators everywhere should take notice: state telecom policy matters. One wishes these state commissions didn’t have the power to extract detailed promises out of companies in exchange for policy that should prevail regardless; nevertheless, unleashing the key providers of communications services from old regulations means more communications capacity for everyone.

Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson is a Senior Fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute, where he researches technology and economics and contributes to the Disco-Tech blog. He is currently writing a book on the abundance of the world economy, focusing on the Chinese boom and developing a new concept linking economics and information theory. Swanson writes frequently for the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on topics ranging from broadband communications to monetary policy.