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Dispatch from the 2016 TPI Aspen Forum – Monday General Session Keynotes and Panels

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The first full day of the TPI Aspen Forum began with the discussion panel, “Innovation, Productivity and Growth: Is the Party Over?

TPI’s Scott Wallsten asked the panelists why there seems to be a marked drop in productivity over the past 15 or so years, despite technological advancements. Timothy Bresnahan, Landau Professor in Technology and the Economy and Professor of Economics, Stanford University, opined that most technological advancement has gone into consumption, as opposed to productivity improvements. Mobile, cloud computing, big data and analytics is slowly defusing into productivity instead of just consumption. Therefore, outlook for improvement is good but there seems to be a large income inequality.

Carol Corrado, Senior Policy Scholar, Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy and Senior Advisor and Research Director in Economics, The Conference Board, explained that there may be a mis-measurement in growth, as adoptions of new technologies are slow to show up in GDP and productivity measurements.

John Haltiwanger, Distinguished University Professor of Economics, University of Maryland, explained that at the time of a marked slowdown in growth in the 2000’s, there was also a drop in high-growth entrepreneurs. The data is also consistent with there being a real productivity slowdown. Some reasons for this could be globalization, where products are designed in the U.S. but produced elsewhere, a growth in occupational licensing requirements at the state level, and erosion of employment-at-will. In addition, the regulatory environment for firms has become burdensome.

Chad Syverson, J. Baum Harris Professor of Economics, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, stated that technological advancements in the mid 2000’s had social impacts, but do not show up in the productivity numbers. For example, Facebook is hugely popular, but users do not pay for the service. In fact, 29 out of 30 OECD countries have had a productivity slowdown, and there seems to be no relationship between GDP and the size of the technology industry in individual countries.

The entire panel can be viewed here on the TPI YouTube channel.

Dennis Kooker, President, Global Digital Business & U.S. Sales at Sony Music Entertainment, gave the day’s first keynote speech entitled, “Today’s Music Marketplace: Embracing Disruption in a Highly Regulated Industry.” His presentation, which can be viewed here, covered such themes on how regulation is distorting the music marketplace; how disparity in those regulations as they are applied to different services is restraining innovation and investment in artists and business; how proper protection of intellectual property is vital; and how regulations such as the DMCA, though well-intentioned, are not evolving with the industry and technology.

The second keynote of the day was presented by Laura Martin, Senior Analyst, Entertainment, Cable and Media at Needham & Company LLC. Her presentation discussed the “Future of TV” and revealed such interesting facts as how the proliferation of consumer devices fractures audiences and adds complexity to ad buying, how global revenue streams are more important to investors that U.S.-only streams, how ad revenue differs by digital device and the length of content, and how the largest 10 companies have represented 70-75% of digital advertising for the past decade. Her presentation can be viewed here.

The last panel of the day was “The Future of Connectivity,” moderated by Scott Wallsten.

Donna Epps, Vice President for Public Policy and Strategic Alliances at Verizon, was asked to explain what changes are coming up for her company. Epps explained that Verizon is the embodiment of “convergence” in the industry. She explained that networks are still the core of their business but they are also focused on digital media services, such as content and advertising, and developing platform solutions for such industries as healthcare and the “internet of things.”

William Lehr, Research Associate, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, opined that there needs to be a radical restructuring of the regulatory environment and a re-assessment of how some content and data is delivered independent of what we think of as “the internet.” He also expressed how economic growth and

IoT, how to tie the real world to the virtual world? Need a radical restructuring of regulatory, do we need to this about how we deliver content, etc. as different from “the internet”, economic growth may be dependent on ubiquitous connectivity, as opposed to super-fast speeds.

Jennifer Manner, Senior Vice President for Regulatory Affairs at Echostar and Chair of the Satellite Industry Association, warned against an apparent “extreme bias” against certain connectivity technologies, such as satellite, which may cause of lack of choice in rural areas. In other words, there needs to be diverse service options in order to meet consumer needs.

Peter Pitsch, Associate General Counsel and Executive Director, Communications Policy at Intel Corporation discussed spectrum, identifying two successful allocation models. He explained that flexible licenses allows the company to internalize the opportunity cost of use, or lack thereof, which drives the spectrum to its most valuable use. Unlicensed, he explained, has been a great source of innovation due it its low opportunity cost of use and because of lack of regulation.

David Quinalty, Policy Director for the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, discussed the much-hyped 5G networks. Specifically he expressed the importance of 4G networks for past innovation and stressed that the U.S. must “win in 5G” in order to continue the environment that is good for innovation. Without the high-speed networks, it becomes a global-competitiveness issue.

The Honorable Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission gave her second keynote at the Aspen Forum, taking the opportunity again to talk about data and privacy. Her remarks, which addressed consumer choice and transparency, can be viewed here.

Video of all panels above can be viewed on the TPI YouTube page.

Soon, I’ll have a wrap-up of last night’s dinner keynote given by Evan Shapiro, Executive Vice President, Digital Enterprises at NBCUniversal. Stay tuned.