2014 provided fertile soil for those interested in policy research. So with New Years rapidly approaching, I want to uphold tradition and use our last blog post of the year to highlight what we at the Phoenix Center thought to be the most interesting policy issues of 2014 and to provide some select examples of where we believed we added constructively to the debate. Spectrum Availability and Allocation While spectrum policy is always complex, the debate again boiled down to the fundamental questions: how do we free up more spectrum; and once we do, how do we allocate it? For example, one of the early …
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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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The Federal Communications Commission is at a crossroads.  Burdened with implementing laws designed for a market structure of a bygone era—and with little prospect of a comprehensive legislative update on the horizon—incoming FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler faces a daunting task to adapt and modernize the agency’s approach to regulation so that we can remove, in President Obama’s words, those rules which have “outlived their usefulness.”  Equally as important, Mr. Wheeler has the related and no less daunting task of re-establishing the FCC’s credibility with the industry, Capitol Hill, the courts and (most importantly) the public as the “expert” agency which not only uniquely understands the …
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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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In a recent report entitled The Cost of Connectivity, the New America Foundation (“New America”) attempts to compare the prices of “triple play” offerings of video, phone, and Internet services across 22 cities worldwide to show that “that U.S. consumers in major cities tend to pay higher prices for slower speeds compared to consumers abroad.”  Unfortunately, when it comes to measuring and comparing prices, New America has a demonstrated penchant for careless work.  Upon inspection, New America’s new study appears to be unexceptional in that regard—the empirics are sloppy and the conclusions are unsupported.  In fact, New America presents evidence which force conclusions that directly …
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