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Does It Matter if Millions of People Send Comments to the FCC?

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Like Jane Curtin and Chevy Chase might have said on Saturday Night Live, with a name like “https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=17-108” it’s got to be good! That’s the address of the website the public can use to submit comments regarding the Net Neutrality/Title II rulemaking, and they have become almost as controversial as the underlying issue itself. Newsworthy incidents so far include an extended time period when the site was not available; racist comments targeting Indian-American chairman Ajit Pai; comments submitted under false names; and questions of how the agency should interpret millions […]

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Net Neutrality Special Issue: Law, Social Welfare, and Net Neutrality

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Proponents argue that net neutrality enhances societal welfare, guards against anticompetitive behavior, and protects free speech. Keith Hylton, Boston University William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, explains why he believes net neutrality regulations are unlikely to achieve those goals. This post is the second in a series highlighting pieces from the most recent special issue of the Review of Industrial Organization. Devoted entirely to net neutrality and organized by the Technology Policy Institute and the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition, the issue brings together a variety of […]

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Net Neutrality Special Issue: The Evolution of Competition

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They say that arguments in academia are so fierce because the stakes are so low. Occasionally, however, the stars align so that an academic journal hot-off-the-press informs a pressing and current policy debate. A just-released special issue of the Review of Industrial Organization devoted entirely to net neutrality and organized by the Technology Policy Institute and the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition, is one example. The issue features nine articles on net neutrality, plus an introduction, which will inform the current debate and rulemaking. This post […]

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Communications Policy at this Summer’s Eighth Annual TPI Aspen Forum

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Want to escape the net neutrality quagmire but still talk communications policy this summer? Come to TPI’s Aspen Forum, where we will cover many other aspects of communications policy, such as infrastructure, access, process, and international regulatory issues. Academics, industry experts, and policymakers will opine on the communications landscape under the new administration. What policies should the new FCC consider to bridge the digital divide? If we ever see the infrastructure bill that’s always just around the corner, should it include subsidies for broadband buildout and, if so, how should […]

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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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