NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stifling the High-Speed Internet

February 6, 2003

The recent history of communications regulations prompts concerns that many promising new broadband and content-delivery technologies could be delayed or blocked in the United States by poorly crafted regulation.

  • Cellular service could have been operational at least 10 years earlier except for delays by the extended regulatory process -- costing the U.S. economy and consumers $86 billion by one accounting and giving European and Asian companies the competitive lead in cellular technology.
  • It took 13 years for Time Domain, one of the leading providers of Ultra-Wideband -- which can be used for automobile radar, location finding and imaging functions -- to get even a restricted ability to provide services.
  • Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) and Bluetooth, two new high-speed technologies for Internet access, have already been threatened with delays by regulatory action.

The Federal Communications Commission has been the major culprit, but Congress is often asked -- and sometimes prevailed upon -- by various interest groups to pass laws that can have harmful effects.

Source: Richard D. Hearst, "Beware Preempting the Cyberspace Revolution: Lessons from History for Broadband Policy," in Sonia Avison, ed., Telecrisis: How Regulation Stifles High-Speed Internet Access (San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, 2003).


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