New FCC rules kick telegraph service into the 21st century

30 September 2017 by Steve Blum
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The Federal Communications Commission isn’t giving up on the telegraph. In fact, it’s giving telegraph companies a turbo-charged boost of free market competition. But don’t worry, it isn’t going completely crazy. The FCC is making it very clear that telegraph service is still subject to common carrier rules. In a lighter touch sort of way, of course, since this new and improved FCC is gung ho about light touch common carrier regulation.

In a wonderfully circular bit of reasoning, the FCC has decided that since there aren’t any telegraph companies, it’s okay for them to discontinue service without giving notice, because that will promote telegraph competition…

No entities filing [service reports] in the past five years indicated that they provide telegraph service, and we are not aware of any interstate telegraph service providers today. Nor did any entities file comments or objections in response to this proposal in the Notice…

Telegraph service is obsolete, and we find that no purpose is served by requiring any remaining (or future) providers of telegraph service to file discontinuance applications with the Commission. Nor is the public interest served by maintaining outdated and unnecessary requirements in our rules or by expending future agency resources on the processing of any such applications. To the extent that common-carrier telegraph service will ever be offered in the future, allowing unregulated discontinuance would promote competitive market conditions.

I would like to believe that this FCC order was written in the waning minutes of an all hands keg party: you call that deregulation? I’ll show you deregulation – hey, Ajit, you’re not supposed to swallow the ping pong ball. The thought of grave and grey bureaucrats ponderously weighing the free market benefits of fewer telegraph rules against the public’s need to be protected from rogue key pounders is too much to bear.