Six Principles for Communications and Technology
The goal of this statement of principles is to provide policymakers with general guidance consistent with ALEC principles. The statement affirms ALEC’s mission to advance the principles of free markets in policy regarding communications and technology in the 21st century. This statement also recognizes the tremendous, rapid change underway in communications and technology, and underscores the importance of competition in retail services to protect consumers.
WHEREAS, it is the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to advance the principles of free markets, limited government, and federalism, and;
WHEREAS, it is the mission of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force to advance these principles in order to promote economic growth, freedom of technology, and innovation;
THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that ALEC supports the following principles in formulating government policy regarding communications and technology:
1. THE FREE MARKET SHOULD DRIVE COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
Public policy relating to communications and technology should be driven by free market principles. The free market has enabled today’s Internet Protocol-based, broadband-centric digital economy, which is increasingly characterized by disruptive change, vibrant competition, and consumer choice. Convergence is an ongoing feature of today’s communications and technology markets; the providers of products and services once considered separate now compete for the same end users.
2. GOVERNMENT SHOULD STRIVE FOR COMPETITIVE AND TECHNOLOGICAL NEUTRALITY IN ITS POLICIES
Public policy should remain neutral with respect to existing and emerging business models, and technologies. Additionally, government procurement policies should be transparent, non-discriminatory, openly pro-competitive, and performance-based. Rules should be based on desired results rather than preferred designs; in other words, designs of devices, software, or networks must not be dictated through governmental mandates. Government must not seek to create new technologies through regulation.
3. CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITS AND PROTECTIONS SHOULD GUIDE GOVERNMENT POLICY AT ALL LEVELS.
All limits on government power and all protections for individual rights contained in the federal and state constitutions must inform and apply to all government policies regarding communications and technology. Constitutional limits and rights do not cease applying where practices or conduct involves digital technology or takes place online.
4. SELF-GOVERNANCE, CODES OF CONDUCT, AND OTHER VOLUNTARY INITIATIVES ARE PREFERRED METHODS FOR PURSUING SOLUTIONS TO NEW CHALLENGES; REGULATION SHOULD ONLY BE CONSIDERED WHERE MARKET COMPETITION FAILS AND REAL HARM EXISTS.
Voluntary codes of conduct, industry-driven standards and individual empowerment should be preferred over government regulation. If there must be government regulation of communications and technology, it should only be in instances where actual harm results to consumers, and only then with the lightest touch necessary. Prophylactic regulation based on fears about future harms is unwarranted and inappropriate. Instead, empirical evidence of actual harms to consumer welfare should inform any analysis and rulemaking. Local government entry into the provision of wholesale or retail Internet or broadband services in an attempt to create competition should be permissible only in unserved areas and only where no business case for private service exists, upon a vote by local citizens, and subject to protections against cross-subsidies through taxes or other local government service revenues.
5. ANY NECESSARY REGULATIONS SHOULD BE SIMPLE, CERTAIN, AND ACCOMPANIED BY SAFEGUARDS.
Primary policy decision-making should rest with the legislative branch. Necessary delegations of authority should contain intelligible principles, and not confer unfettered discretion in either process or policy, or employ vague standards on regulatory agencies. Regulations should target actual harms to consumers or to public health or safety, and should not stifle innovation, competition, or access to technologies. Safeguards against regulatory excess may include: public records and other transparency measures; requirement that executive branch officials sign rules before they take effect; mandating cost-benefit analysis for economically significant rules; and attaching forbearance and sunsets in a certain timeframe to all new rules.
6. DEREGULATION SHOULD BE CONTINUOUSLY PURSUED TO REDUCE BURDENS AND PROMOTE GROWTH AND INNOVATION
Government policy should encourage innovation, investment and competition by ongoing removal of outdated regulations and other barriers to entry to the marketplace, and no new regulations should be adopted unless there is a showing of market failure or actual consumer harm. Implicit subsidies built into regulated rates are not sustainable and should be phased out. Any remaining subsidies should be explicit and preferably targeted to end-users as necessary.
Approved by ALEC Task Force on November 30, 2012.
Approved by ALEC Board of Directors on January 28, 2013.