This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight…
CFIF on Twitter CFIF on YouTube
Happy 40th to the Staggers Rail Act, Which Deregulated and Saved the U.S. Rail Industry

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight rail and saved it from looming oblivion.

At the time of passage, the U.S. economy muddled along amid ongoing malaise, and our rail industry teetered due to decades of overly bureaucratic sclerosis.  Many other domestic U.S. industries had disappeared, and our railroads faced the same fate.  But by passing the Staggers Rail Act, Congress restored a deregulatory approach that in the 1980s allowed other U.S. industries to thrive.  No longer would government determine what services railroads could offer, their rates or their routes, instead restoring greater authority to the railroads themselves based upon cost-efficiency.

Today, U.S. rail flourishes even amid the coronavirus pandemic…[more]

October 13, 2020 • 11:09 PM

Liberty Update

CFIFs latest news, commentary and alerts delivered to your inbox.
Jester's CourtroomLegal tales stranger than stranger than fiction: Ridiculous and sometimes funny lawsuits plaguing our courts.
FCC and Chairman Ajit Pai Vindicated on "Net Neutrality" by Court, Experience Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, October 08 2020
After a brief hiccup when the Obama FCC irresponsibly increased regulation in 2015, the deregulatory stance that allowed the internet to grow between 1996 and 2015 also prepared the United States to handle the unexpected coronavirus demands as well as we have.

Remember the so-called “Net Neutrality” debate?  

In fairness, Americans shouldn’t be blamed for cleansing it from their minds.  

Its Orwellian name alone offended any sense of logic, considering that a heavy-handed, 1930s-era, crony-capitalist, utility-style, interventionist federal regulation of internet service was anything but “neutral.”  

Additionally, the tiresome doomsday predictions from pro-regulation advocates made it a particularly forgettable episode.  

Recent events, however, return it to the fore and reconfirm the importance of a deregulatory, light-touch governmental approach to internet service.  

Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Chairman Ajit Pai won a significant victory in the nation’s second-highest court, when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld restoration of the bipartisan, light-touch deregulatory stance that prevailed between 1996 and 2015 until the Obama Administration’s FCC unreasonably decided to impose heavy top-down internet regulation under the false name “Net Neutrality.”  

In addition to that legal victory, real-world facts amid a societally disruptive coronavirus pandemic confirm the soundness of their approach.  For that, all Americans can be thankful for the FCC’s 2017 wisdom in restoring the light-touch regulatory approach to internet service.  

The internet blossomed inexorably from 1996 through 2015 because the federal government through Democratic and Republican administrations took a rational light-touch regulatory approach.  That gave innovators the latitude that they needed to experiment, try different approaches and cultivate internet service to what we now enjoy.  Suddenly, with no basis other than placating its crony capitalist benefactors, the Obama Administration decided in 2015 that what the internet needed was heavy-handed “Net Neutrality” regulation modeled on 1930s-style copper wire telephone laws.  

The immediate results were disastrous.  For the first time outside of an economic recession, private broadband investment actually declined.  

Accordingly, in 2017 the new FCC under Chairman Pai passed the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, restoring to the deregulatory approach that prevailed for two decades prior to 2015.  

As referenced above, latenight comedians and far-left regulatory fetishists predicted doom.  They literally alleged that people would die, that tweets would suddenly cost $5 apiece, that people would access the internet one word at a time and that internet service as we know it would collapse.  

As Chairman Pai himself neatly summarized, however, the exact opposite occurred:  

And what’s been the result?  The Internet has remained free and open.  And it’s stronger than ever.  Millions more Americans have access to the Internet today than in 2017.  In 2018 and then again in 2019, the United States set records for annual fiber deployment, and we’ve seen network investment hit levels that our nation hadn’t seen for over a decade.  In fact, since we adopted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, average download speeds for fixed broadband in the Unite States have doubled, increasing by over 99% (so much for getting the Internet one word at a time).  And in 2018 and 2019, we added over 72,000 wireless cell sites in the United States, after adding fewer than 20,000 in the prior four years.  

The news gets even better as it relates to internet service following the coronavirus pandemic and its sudden disruptions.  

Namely, the nation’s networks have held up extremely well throughout the pandemic despite immense usage shifts and capacity demands.  In fact, average internet speeds have actually increased over the past six months in America.  Meanwhile, other nations with more interventionist regulatory approaches have been forced to throttle consumer usage following years of comparatively inferior infrastructure investment.  

While doomsayers’ predictions thus proved flatly incorrect, their attempted legal assault fared no better.  Despite pro-regulation activists’ expectations of success, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Restoring Internet Freedom Order and only asked for FCC clarification on three minor issues.  This week, Chairman Pai circulated an order for consideration in response to those questions.  

Among other items, Chairman Pai is also circulating rules to establish a 5G fund for rural America, which will distribute up to $9 billion to extend 5G service to rural areas that would otherwise be unlikely to achieve deployment.  He is also proposing changes to expand use of “white space” airwaves to provide broadband coverage in rural and unserved areas while maintaining protections for television broadcasters.  

All of this serves to again highlight the importance of free markets and a light-touch regulatory approach for the internet sector.  After a brief hiccup when the Obama FCC irresponsibly increased regulation in 2015, the deregulatory stance that allowed the internet to grow between 1996 and 2015 also prepared the United States to handle the unexpected coronavirus demands as well as we have.  

For that, Americans should be thankful, and support continuation of that market-based approach as the importance of the internet economy only increases.  

Related Articles :
Question of the Week   
Which one of the following was the first 20th century presidential candidate to call for a Presidential Debate?
More Questions
Quote of the Day   
 
"Wait until Scranton hears about this.One of Joe Biden's ways of contrasting himself with President Trump has been to declare the election a battle of Park Avenue values vs. Scranton, Pa., values.Now we learn that Biden has secretly been playing footsie with China.The statement Wednesday night asserting that the former vice president was a willing and eager participant in a family scheme to make millions…[more]
 
 
—Michael Goodwin, New York Post
— Michael Goodwin, New York Post
 
Liberty Poll   

Do you believe you will be better off over the next four years with Joe Biden as president or with Donald Trump as president?