Blog

Can We Prevent Another Net Neutrality Groundhog Day?

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The near-instantaneous response by supporters and opponents of Chairman Pai’s proposal to roll back the Open Internet Order highlights two points. First, despite the hyperventilating and hand-wringing, this proposal surprised nobody. Everybody who follows the issue knew the moment Donald Trump won the presidential election that this day would come. Second, the arguments on both sides have all been made. Many times. For example, Oxford University professor Bob Hahn and I argued in 2006 why we believed net neutrality rules were likely to be harmful.1 Not surprisingly, I support the Chairman’s proposal. Yet, […]

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2017 TPI Aspen Forum: Turn and Face the (Strange?) Changes

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A new administration means new policy priorities. It also means new issues, angles, and discussions at this year’s TPI Aspen Forum. The changes ahead are reflected in this year’s Aspen Forum theme, “New Directions in Technology Policy: Removing Barriers to Growth and Innovation.” Nearly across-the-board policy shifts will affect the technology and communications sectors, as well as the broader U.S. and global business environment. How will these shifts influence emerging technologies and, more broadly, innovation and economic growth? The best event of the summer, therefore, will focus on some big […]

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Make Economics at the FCC Great Again

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Most of us employ informal cost-benefit analysis (CBA)—or what Benjamin Franklin described as weighing pros and cons—whenever we make decisions in our daily lives.[1] It seems fair to expect federal agencies to do the same when considering new rules. Surprisingly, though, some agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), are not required to engage in CBA before issuing a rule. In a recent speech, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai promised to rectify this situation. In particular, he announced his plan to establish an FCC Office of Economics and Data. The office […]

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Ajit Pai’s New FCC “Office of Economics & Data” is a Home Run

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called for the creation of a new “Office of Economics and Data.” As an economist, I might be thought to have a conflict of interest in endorsing his proposal. I do, but not in the direction you may expect. To paraphrase a former presidential candidate, I was against it before I was for it. When I was Chief Economist at the Commission in 1991-92, then-Chairman Al Sikes asked me about his idea that every major rulemaking include a formal cost-benefit analysis. I was underwhelmed by […]

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Piecemeal Lifeline Reform Efforts Unlikely to Fix Its High Costs

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Lost among the outrage over the FCC’s largely inconsequential decision to revoke Lifeline Broadband Provider status from nine carriers is the problem of the program’s economic costs. The FCC’s own estimates suggest it may cost between 25 and 41 cents to provide a dollar of subsidy. Another estimate done by four economists (this writer being one of them) found the cost might be closer to 65 cents per dollar. These costs, ironically, are largely the result of the Commission’s well-intentioned effort to combat earlier fraud in the program. They tell […]

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Is This Data’s One-Rate Moment?

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The Holy Grail in cellular wireless broadband is a perfect substitute for fixed, wireline broadband. It’s already a substitute for some uses and users, meaning competition analysis should take into account this imperfect competition for policymaking purposes. But the technologies are not yet substitutes for most households. Verizon’s recent (re-)introduction of its unlimited data plan, however, suggests that day may be in sight. While history never provides a perfect analogy, let’s take a step back in time to the days of in-country roaming and long-distance wireless charges. (Like cavemen, we […]

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Is it Fake News? Depends on Whether You’re Winning

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The rash of fantastical, untrue stories circulating on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign yielded the phrase “fake news” along with attempts to tackle the problem. One possible outcome of this phenomenon is people becoming more skeptical of news in general. On the one hand skepticism is healthy by making people less gullible. On the other hand, certain people exploit the problem by crying “fake news” as a response to any story or argument with which they disagree, potentially decreasing trust in reputable sources. A rough empirical analysis suggests […]

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Were Trump’s Tweets More Positive Than Clinton’s?

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Donald Trump is not exactly known for his sunny personality. Yet, surprisingly, his tweets may have appeared more positive than Hillary Clinton’s. A simple textual analysis may provide some insight into why Trump’s use of social media appears to be so effective, at least among his followers, and a window into why Clinton’s campaign failed. To do this, I downloaded the most recent 3200 tweets from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and created word clouds in which the size of a word in the cloud indicates its frequency.[1] The analysis (or, perhaps […]

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Don’t Be Disappointed by the FCC’s Incentive Auction

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After Stage 4 of the incentive auction, broadcasters asked for $10 billion to clear 84 MHz of spectrum—down from $86 billion to clear 126 MHz in Stage 1. Assuming that wireless providers will bid enough to allow the auction to close, FierceWireless noted, “that would bring a disappointing end to an auction that once was predicted to generate $60 billion or more…”[1] Disappointment, however, is all a matter of expectations, and expectations for this auction had become unrealistic by the time it began last year. In reality, spectrum bids in […]

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TPI Tech Policy 2016 Year In Review

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***SPOILER ALERT!*** For those of you who were cryogenically frozen during the year 2016 and want to watch it on your DVR later, proceed with caution.[1] Some people think that 2016 was the worst year ever, which can’t possibly be true considering 1348. The tech sector, however, was more balanced, with small rays of light to bolster our optimism and crushing disappointments to keep us off-balance. To start, consider Stanford drop-out Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.[2] She claimed that her magic black boxes could, despite the limitations of biology and statistics, accurately diagnose […]

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