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Democracy & Technology Blog Net Neutrality Not a Republican Principle

Would Ronald Reagan have supported net neutrality? A Republican congressman tried to infer it is consistent with the Reagan legacy because, after all, His Justice Deptartment prosecuted AT&T. Let’s set the record straight: Reagan opposed the breakup of AT&T. He reluctantly allowed it to proceed under pressure from zealots at the Antitrust Division. Reagan’s personal views are well documented. See, e.g., “Reagan: In His Own Hand,” by Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson (eds.) at 316-17. It includes the following transcript of a 1979 radio address by Ronald Reagan:

“I hear the govt. is going to or already has sued the phone company again. It makes you wonder how they have the nerve….
“What with busy signals, wrong numbers, etc. it’s easy to have a grudge against “Ma Bell.” Truth is the old girl deservesa big thank you from all of us. For one thing here is a major service none of us feel we can do without, yet in this age of continual inflation that service keeps dropping in cost….
“Back in the 1930’s a long distance call across the country cost $9.50. That was 300 times as much as it cost to send a letter. Now that phone call is only 9 times as expensive as a letter–$1.30 while stamps have gone up to 15 cents…
“Today the miracles we already have are going to be topped by video phone; there are recorder gadgets to take phone calls & messages when you are absent and now they talk of electronic mail. If the cost differential continues at the present rate, it is possible the telephone may put the post office out of business within the next 10 or 20 years. Do you suppose that’s why the government is suing the phone company?”(emphasis added)

Reagan believed in the free market, not big government. Most realize that net neutrality is not a core belief for Republicans. This helps explain why a pro-net neutrality amendment failed 23-8 today in the House Telecom Subcommittee.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.