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Research Roundup #5: Virtual Economics, E-Commerce Regulation, and more

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Today’s Research Roundup includes thirty studies on economics, law, and technology. Of these we highlight two papers that undertake complementary analyses of some implications of moving our lives increasingly online. Vili Lehdonvirta of the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology offers an impressively lengthy look into virtual consumption, that is, the purchase of a unique class of not-quite-goods, not-quite-services that exist only within the confines of an online environment (items for sale in a computer game are the classic example).  With a decidedly sociological approach, Lehdonvirta seeks to answer “why do […]

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Satellite Broadband: Line-of-Sight, Not Out of Mind

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The National Broadband Plan (NBP) estimates that firms would need subsidies totaling $23.5 billion to invest in the infrastructure necessary for universal broadband coverage in the United States (Exhibit 1-A, click to enlarge).[1] The problem with the Plan’s estimate is that it includes only DSL and 4G wireless and omits broadband-over-satellite, which is by far the cheapest option for serving the most costly areas.  Thus this “base case” grossly overstates the necessary costs of achieving 100% broadband availability. The Broadband Plan notes that “while satellite is capable of delivering speeds […]

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If you like the Do Not Call List, should you want a Do Not Track List?

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At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Liebowitz indicated that the agency is exploring the idea of a Do Not Track List that would allow consumers to block servers from tracking their online activities.  A Do Not Track List sounds like a good idea, because the Do Not Call List for telemarketing calls is popular.  Before moving forward with a Do Not Track List, however, the FTC should thoroughly analyze its benefits and costs and determine whether there are more cost-effective ways of achieving […]

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Research Roundup #4

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We’re well into another sweltering summer here in the District, with policy debates that seem to raise the mercury even higher. Take a few minutes to cool down with a crisp, refreshing study from the authors below. Don’t miss the Vigdor and Ladd piece, which provocatively argues that “students who gain access to a home computer between 5th and 8th grade tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math test scores.” Readers with a mind for engineering over economics may prefer Bauer, Clark, and Lehr’s thorough analysis of “speed” definition and measurement in “high-speed Internet access.” And of course there are a few articles for the lawyer in all of us, including two on intellectual property rights.

(Click through to the full post to see the list of papers and abstract excerpts)

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Meaningful Use Rule: Just the Beginning of Tightening Regulation of Electronic Health Records

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Yesterday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its long-awaited rule specifying the requirements that physicians and other health care providers must meet in order to qualify for roughly $19 billion in federal subsidies for electronic health records. But the issuance of the rule, which runs 864 pages, will not end widespread concern about a lack of clarity of the required criteria. In its proposed meaningful use rule, issued in January, CMS set forth numerous measures for hospitals and physicians to show they were using electronic records to […]

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President Obama’s Spectrum Announcement

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The Obama Administration announced last week that it is adopting as Administration policy the spectrum portion of the FCC’s broadband plan.  This announcement is important because it will take a concerted effort on the part of the Administration to achieve the goals of the plan – i.e., to free up 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband, primarily from reluctant federal agencies and broadcasters.  The spectrum initiative is arguably the most important part of the broadband plan.  (For another discussion of some of the options for increasing spectrum for broadband, […]

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ADD and the FCC

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The deadline for comments regarding the Comcast/NBCU merger has come and gone, resulting in over 10,000 filings from a wide variety of groups.  From fears over loss of diversity to concerns over media localism, many commenters seem to see the process as a vehicle for their favorite causes rather than as a review of the effects of the merger itself. In light of this, it seems like a good time to highlight the recent TPI paper by James Speta, “Screening and Simplifying the Competition Arguments in the NBC/Comcast Transaction.”  In […]

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Research Roundup #3

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Today’s Roundup features a variety of papers from authors at organizations ranging from law schools and university economics departments to the research arm of a major investment bank.  Note the paper by Grimes and Ren, which offers a rare empirical analysis of high speed Internet access and firm productivity.  In addition, two articles discuss web search and social network data as tools for economic study (under the heading below of “Tech and Macroeconomics”). (Click through to the full post to see the list of papers and abstract excerpts)

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The FCC Tries to Find Its Way

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Three months after the Comcast decision the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) asking, basically, “what should we do now?”  Not being a lawyer, I have a difficult time understanding, let alone caring, whether the FCC’s regulatory authority derives from Title I or Title II.  As an economist, however, I do care about the content of proposed regulations. So what problem does this NOI seek to solve?  It does not propose directly any new rules industry must follow.  Instead, it seeks a framework in which the FCC can regulate […]

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The Case of Newspapers

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The Office of Policy Planning at the FTC has just issued the “Federal Trade Commission Staff Discussion Draft: Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism.” This is a very strange document. It is written by “FTC staff in the Office of Policy Planning” but we cannot tell who actually wrote the draft. Moreover, no reason is given for writing the document. It is not a research paper (of the sort written in the Bureau of Economics) and there is no indication that it has been written in response […]

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