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Free-market system worked for America's Internet

Published: September 4, 2013

Regarding “DVR pioneer TiVo refreshes its lineup” (Associated Press, Aug. 21): There's a bizarre disconnect in this country between the incredible pace of technology change and the inexplicable calls for new technology regulations that threaten to shut it down. The backbone of sea change innovations like the six-channel TiVo, digital radio and mobile TV is the U.S. Internet, which is among the fastest and farthest reaching in the world. Some 85 percent of American households are served by 100 Mbps-capable broadband, blowing away Europe, where only 50 percent of households can access one-third that speed. We're one of only two countries with three different broadband systems (DSL/fiber, cable, 4G wireless).

This consumer cornucopia was created by the forces of open competition put in motion by Clinton-era telecommunications reforms, which emphasized free markets instead of European-style central regulation. Yet some critics still don't accept this market-based approach and want to replace it with regulatory command and control. But that's already failed in Europe, where large incumbents control the network and anyone who wants to compete must buy access to their pipelines at regulated prices.

This “forced access” model kills innovation, since there's no incentive to build new infrastructure that would just be shared. It's why America's Internet is faster than in leading European nations. The greatest Internet companies in the world — from Amazon to Facebook — are American companies. We should stick with the free-market system that's worked so well.

Harry C. Alford, Washington, D.C.

Alford is president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.