Author Archives: George Ford

As most of you know, the FCC will implement its first-ever incentive auction for wireless spectrum. In this auction, television broadcasters will (hopefully) offer for sale—and wireless carriers (among others) will offer to buy—spectrum in the 600 MHz band. The FCC will serve as the auctioneer. It’s all voluntary. How much spectrum gets traded depends on the prices offered by the wireless industry and the prices required by the broadcasters. Ideally, the auction will transfer a significant amount of spectrum to the mobile wireless industry and generate lots of revenue with which to buy stuff (like a new public safety network, E911 upgrades, and a …
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Late last year I had the pleasure of participating in an event on Spectrum Auctions put together by the New America Foundation.  I’ve blogged about the event before, but when it was recently reported that T-Mobile’s CFO, Braxton Carter, stated that consolidation in the mobile wireless sector was inevitable (“It’s not a question of if, it is a question of when”), I was reminded of an interesting anecdote provided by one of the event’s other participants—former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.     Specifically, Chairman Hundt was recounting his experience in designing and implementing the first PCS spectrum auctions back in the 1990s.  (Watch the first video …
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Last December, I authored a blog entitled Price, Profit, and Efficiency: Mark Cooper’s Bungled Analysis.  Using basic economics, my blog describes in detail why a report authored by Mark Cooper from the Consumer Federation of America (“CFA”) entitled Comparing Apples to Apples:  How Competitive Provider Services Outpace the Baby Bell Duopoly — Municipal Wireline and Non-Baby Bell Wireless Service Providers Deliver Products that are More Consumer-Friendly reached a conclusion that was not supported by economic theory.  Mark’s argument was that AT&T and Verizon charge higher prices and earn higher profits than do Sprint and T-Mobile and that such an outcome prescribes “a really good suspicion …
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Last month, I was generously invited to join a panel put together by the New America Foundation (“NAF”) at a Capitol Hill event entitled Spectrum Auctions: Promoting More Mobile Market Competition . . . or Less?  (For those interested, video of my panel is available here.)  It was an honor to participate, and kudos to Michael Calabrese from NAF for putting together a great event.  On the panel, I was joined by Mark Cooper (Consumer Federation of America), Fred Campbell (Competitive Enterprise Institute), and Peter Cramton (professor at the University of Maryland).  I found the discussion interesting, informative, and mostly civil.  The variance in the …
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Aujourd’hui ce qui ne vaut pas la peine d’être dit, on le chante.   This line, from Le Barbier de Séville, is translated as, “Nowadays what isn’t worth saying is sung.”  International comparisons of broadband services certainly fall into this category, and this week the New America Foundation is singing again with a 2013 update to its 2012 Cost of Connectivity Report.  While New America’s 2013 Report has garnered some glowing accolades in the press (see, e.g., here and here), the hard reality is that New America’s 2013 Report continues to commit all of the numerous technical errors I highlighted in my earlier blog critiquing …
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In a recent article, Washington Post technology reporter Timothy Lee suggested that “broadband speeds were stagnating in the United States”, resulting in “slow innovation and poor customer service.” Comcast—the nation’s largest broadband service provider—begged to differ, and provided Mr. Lee with hard evidence indicating that the opposite was true. While Mr. Lee subsequently admitted his error and conceded that “Comcast’s service really has been getting faster”, Mr. Lee attempts to use the same data to argue that Comcast is “acting more and more like a monopolist.” Specifically, Mr. Lee contends that these data reveal that Comcast is “focus[ing] on maximizing its own profits, without worrying …
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Last week, the Phoenix Center released my Perspective entitled Will Bidder Exclusions Increase Auction Revenue?  A Review of the Arguments, which assessed the arguments being made about the revenue consequences of excluding AT&T and Verizon from the upcoming broadcast spectrum incentive auction.  While a number of parties have claimed that such exclusions can enhance auction revenues, I show in my Perspective that the economic theories they rely upon do not support the claim.  In fairness, Sprint, T-Mobile, and others are quick to note that they are not proposing to exclude the two most successful carriers completely, but rather are proposing they be subject to a …
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Six years ago, the Phoenix Center released (and later published) a paper entitled Network Neutrality and Foreclosing Market Exchange: A Transaction Cost Analysis.  In that paper, we analyzed the effects of network neutrality proposals that foreclose or severely limit market transactions between content providers and broadband service providers.  Our model revealed that under plausible conditions, rules that prohibit efficient commercial transactions between content and broadband service providers could, in fact, be bad for all participants: consumers would pay higher prices, the profits of the broadband service provider would decline, and the sales of Internet content providers would also decline.  As a result, such proposals would …
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In a recent speech, outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski once again reiterated the critical importance of spectrum policy “breakthroughs” to address the “tremendous stress” on the capacity of the nation’s wireless networks “from growing digital demand.”  While Congress and regulators are doing what they can, including addressing tower siting (here and here), reallocating and sharing government spectrum (here and here), and moving forward with the voluntary incentive auctions for broadcast spectrum, these actions represent only partial (and possibly untimely) solutions to spectrum exhaust.  Addressing the problem in the near term will require secondary market transactions for spectrum, where spectrum is reassigned from lower to higher …
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