Thomas Hazlett says regulation of the telecommunications industry is so ill-conceived that blue-collar workers are subsidizing telephone services for all the millionaires living outside of Aspen, Colo.
Hazlett, a free-market economist, argued that both the industry and consumers would be better off if competition, rather than regulations, decided when or if state-of-the-art technologies would reach rural communities such as Aspen.
Hazlett's comments were part of a Friday debate sponsored by the Freestate Center for Liberty Studies at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University.
Freestate Center for Liberty Studies is a Topeka-based research firm dedicated to promoting free enterprise, family values and less government.
Hazlett, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, was opposed by Marilyn Showalter, chairwoman of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions.
Showalter argued that regulation was all that prevented the industry from abandoning the nation's rural sector. It's true, she said, that Aspen is in the rural sector, but so is much of Kansas.
Before the debate, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., addressed the group. He said that while government should "set the rules," those rules should be "open and wide enough" to promote, rather than inhibit, growth.
The debate was telecast live to an audience in Wichita and broadcast over the Internet, the first such event at the Dole Institute. About 40 people attended the debate.