Regulation by Narrative, Part I: How to Turn the Internet Into a Monopoly

| On February 25, 2016

In a recent talk summarizing a new paper, Tim Brennan — who was chief economist of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the height of the net neutrality wars — called the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order an “economics free zone.” That was a nice way of saying the new regulations were driven by a narrative, not by real analysis.

Stories are powerful. Narratives are easy. Evidence and analysis are boring and difficult. Lots of people and groups have their own stories, and they often conflict. So when a government agency wants to overhaul the way it regulates firms and industries, it’s supposed to do the hard work of analyzing data and economics and, yes, even the law.

The net neutrality story appeared to end happily for those hailing the new policy, now subject to a legal challenge in the DC Circuit Court…



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