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SoftBank’s Son on U.S.: “Regulation in This Country Is Wrong”

The rules have allowed monopolists to grow stronger, he says.

Asa Mathat

SoftBank CEO and Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son continued his unusual campaign to convince regulators to let him buy T-Mobile but criticizing the U.S. wireless market, broadband speeds and regulation Wednesday at the Code Conference.

“Regulation in this country is wrong,” Son said, saying that telecommunications and anti-trust regulators have allowed an environment in which “the monopolist can become even more stronger.”

Americans are satisfied with their Internet speeds because they don’t know any better, Son said, comparing it to Chinese people who have grown used to living under gray, smoggy skies. While the U.S. dominated the 20th century because of its robust infrastructure — both highway and electricity – it’s falling behind now, he said.

Son delivered a similar message in March, when he launched his campaign to buy T-Mobile by criticizing American broadband speeds, prices and U.S. regulators who have allowed the broadband market to be dominated by a handful of large cable and phone companies.

“Why should the American people and investors deserve such a monopolistic or duopolistic situation and not allow a challenger for disruption or innovation?” he asked.

Although Son wouldn’t say the word T-Mobile — he just referred to his desire to buy an American wireless carrier — he said that regulators haven’t been very excited about talking to him about his possible deal.

“They don’t want to see me,” he said. “They don’t want to talk about things like this.”

One thing they might want to talk about is Son’s comment that he “provide network neutrality” on his network if he’s allowed to buy T-Mobile.

The FCC’s 2010 net neutrality rules, which were thrown out by a federal appeals court in January, never really applied that much to wireless networks. AT&T and other carriers weren’t allowed to block or discriminate against competing apps or services under the rules. But they were allowed to block or discriminate against other sorts of traffic.

When the FCC launched its latest effort to write net neutrality rules, the agency asked whether the rules should apply more fully to wireless networks (which were originally exempted because of concerns that some data-heavy streaming services could cripple local wireless networks).

Vocal complaints about the FCC’s net neutrality plan — which could allow for Internet providers to offer fast-lane service to content providers — has left the agency in a bind about how to continue.

Comcast and AT&T executive have also offered to adhere to the 2010 net neutrality rules as a carrot for regulators in exchange for approving their deals to acquire Time Warner Cable and DirecTV, respectively. It would allow the FCC to ensure that a majority of Americans had net neutrality protection even without new rules.

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