Regardless of whether the Federal Communications Commission ultimately reclassifies broadband termination as a Title II telecommunications service or not, the agency will likely justify its efforts to regulate broadband service based on its mandate in Section 706 to “encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans” using “measures that promote competition [and] remove barriers to infrastructure investment.”  Indeed, at the center of the agency’s net neutrality argument is the theory of a “virtuous circle,” whereby innovation and investment at the edge of the network increases the demand for advanced telecommunications capability” and thus, in turn, drives investment …
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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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This month, Cardozo Law School Professor and former Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy to President Barack Obama Susan Crawford released her new book entitled Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.  Professor Crawford is known as a tireless and vocal advocate for government intervention in and the regulation of telecommunications, and is perhaps the most recognized advocate for the construction of a government-funded and regulated fiber-optic Internet network servicing all American homes and businesses.  Many vigorously oppose Professor Crawford’s ideas by claiming they are overly regulatory and too expensive, but many support her proposals with equal …
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Next month, a new book entitled Captive Audience:  The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age (Yale University Press 2012) from Cardozo Law School Professor Susan Crawford will hit the bookshelves.  According to her publisher’s blurb, Professor Crawford’s book will examine how the United States has “created the biggest monopoly since the breakup of Standard Oil a century ago.”  But what is this “monopoly” to which Professor Crawford refers?  While the publisher’s promotional blurb is silent on this question, according to a 2010 paper authored by Professor Crawford in the Yale Law and Policy Review, it appears that she is talking about …
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Although the National Bureau of Economic Research tells us that the recession ended in July 2009, the U.S. economy nonetheless remains in a period of sluggish and uncertain growth.  Consumer confidence remains low, and, with a pending “fiscal cliff,” the “Recession Probability Index” jumped from about 2 to nearly 20 in August.  Unemployment remains exceptionally high.  As we discussed in our paper Can Government Spending Get America Working Again? An Empirical Investigation, the government’s effort to jump start the economy with spending has failed (and will continue to do so), and recovery is likely to depend on the expansion of private sector investment.  Yet, private …
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Every now and then, a genuine and radical change occurs in the telecommunications business that can no longer be ignored and, as such, a policy response can no longer be postponed.  In the past, these cycles have been relatively long, but today significant supply-side and demand-side shocks seem common.  Such is the case of the need to develop a cohesive regulatory paradigm to manage the complicated issue of facilitating the transition from legacy TDM networks to the more efficient IP-based networks. For those of us who study telecom policy closely, the need for the Federal Communications Commission to start to develop a cohesive policy framework …
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Late Wednesday night, the Federal Communications Commission released a Report and Order that would suspend, on an “interim” basis, its rules for automatic grants of pricing flexibility for special access services “in light of significant evidence” that the current deregulatory trigger—i.e., two competitors have collocated in a single Metropolitan Statistical Area (“MSA”)—is “not working as predicted.”  In particular, the Commission found that the geographic territories contained in most MSAs are “overly broad” and, in contrast, most competitive entry is occurring only in areas with “extremely concentrated demand.”  Although the Commission concedes that it “currently lack[s] the necessary data to identify a permanent replacement approach to …
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Over the last several years, we have seen the Federal Communications Commission put forth a rather clever argument to expand its regulatory authority over broadband services.  The argument goes basically like this:  Under Section 706(a) of the Communications Act, the Commission “shall encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans … by utilizing … price cap regulation, regulatory forbearance, measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.”  As part of its mandate, Section 706(b) requires the Commission to conduct a regular inquiry into “whether advanced telecommunications …
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In 1999, the FCC began to grant incumbent LECs pricing flexibility on special access services in some Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”) when specific evidence of competitive alternatives were proven to be present.  Ever since, whether or not the Commission was justified in following the path toward deregulation of special access services has been disputed.  A proceeding initiated in 2002 on the topic of special access pricing flexibility remains open today. Recent press reports indicate that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is now circulating a proposal that would transform the way the FCC regulates such high capacity services.  Among other things, this agency’s review of the regulatory …
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What is the effect of regulation on investment?  At a high level of abstraction, it is impossible to say.  Rate-of-return regulation, for example, is criticized by economists for possibly encouraging too much investment—a principle known as the Averch-Johnson Effect.  On the other hand, if a firm fears that the regulator will alter the rules in a way that reduces the ability to earn profits on large, long-term capital investments, then the incentive to make such investments is reduced.  Importantly, the issue is not, as some claim, just about “regulatory uncertainty.”  There could be great uncertainty about future rule changes, but if the expectation is that …
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