Lessig: Ditch The FCC, Replace It With Innovation Agency

from the stuff-to-think-about... dept

Larry Lessig has a piece in Newsweek suggesting that the new administration abolish the FCC and replace it with something he calls the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA) -- whose purpose is less about control, and more about getting government out of the way when not necessary. The purpose of such an agency would be: "minimal intervention to maximize innovation," with a core focus on keeping the government away from handing out favors and, more importantly, carefully reviewing any government monopolies to see if they cause net benefit or net harm. He starts off by talking about monopolies on things like spectrum, but says the agency can and should expand to cover monopolies such as copyright and patents.

There's a lot to like in the proposal, in theory. One of my big problems with pretty much any government program is how little effort there is to actually look at the basic question of: is this doing what it's supposed to do? And, if not, how do we change that? The GAO does a little bit in this area, but seems mostly powerless to actually effect change. Can you imagine if there were anyone in the government who was actually looking at some of the studies showing how much harm certain government-backed monopolies do to the economy -- and had the power to do something about it? However, it seems quite likely that, in practice, the iEPA would simply get co-opted by industry types, just as the FCC has, and the end result would be pretty ineffectual, if not downright backwards looking. A government agency designed to get the government out of the way? Not sure it's really possible...
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Filed Under: fcc, innovation, larry lessig, monopolies


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  1. identicon
    Bunny, 25 Dec 2008 @ 12:49am

    In Corporationland only corporations innovate

    It's true this won't make any difference.

    Under this guise, all of the public frequencies could be given away to corporations if by definition only corporations innovate. Lobbyists will fight tooth and nail to get a favorable definition of innovation, and then whomever is in the agency will have to work within those guidelines. Anyone outside of a corporation who innovates will be branded an unregistered innovator, evil hacker, or worse, and then the agency will enforce laws against interference by, for example, P2P software. The future Steve Wozniaks of the world will never fulfill their dreams.

    Ham radio operators would not be welcome during emergencies any more because they don't innovate, they just practice a hobby which happens to save lives. Their frequencies will thus be given away so that people can watch more brain-rotting infomercials on yet another digital subchannel or, in the best case, a filtered, censored internet connection that will go down in any disaster. The DHS doesn't trust random do-gooders anyway as it suspects them all of being terrorists, which is much different from the people working for them who would never do anything malicious or stupid like give away nuclear missile secrets.

    I give it three months for the lobbyists to breach the walls.

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