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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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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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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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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Each year, Section 331(c)(1)(C) of the Communications Act directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “review competitive market conditions with respect to commercial mobile services and shall include in its annual report an analysis of those conditions.”  To this end, the agency released its Sixteenth Annual CMRS Report last week.  In this latest report, the FCC makes few formal findings, but instead “focuses on presenting the best data available on competition throughout this sector of the economy and highlighting several key trends in the mobile wireless industry.”  (Sixteenth Report at ¶ 2.)  Consistent with the other CMRS Reports issued under Chairman Julius Genachowski’s watch, the …
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Last month, I authored a blog discussing the Librarian of Congress’s recent decision not to exempt handset unlocking of new phones from the anti-circumvention petitions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).  Since that blog was posted, copyright-reform activists launched an on-line campaign to have the White House “ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.”  Last week, in a post by R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation Policy, entitled It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking, the White House joined in the dispute stating: The White House agrees … that …
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Recently, a renewed interest in long-term contracts and the practice of locking handsets to networks has emerged from an unlikely source:  Copyright law. Making a very long and complicated story short, under Section 1201(a)(1)(A) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it is unlawful to circumvent certain technological measures employed by or on behalf of copyright owners to protect their works.   That said, copyright law always embeds some balance between owner and user, and Section 1201(a)(1)(B) limits the prohibition for subsection (A) by exempting those persons who are “adversely affected by virtue of such prohibition in their ability to make noninfringing uses of that particular …
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With the ever-present specter of spectrum exhaust hanging over the wireless industry, policymakers are constantly faced with the corresponding question of how to allocate spectrum among competing providers to ensure that market does not devolve into one with “excessive” concentration under Section 309(j)(3)(B) of the Communications Act.  Since the 1990’s, the FCC has tried a variety of approaches—from outright spectrum caps to the current and more flexible case-by-case “spectrum screen”—to try to manage its statutory charge.  As to be expected given the huge stakes at hand, stakeholders vehemently disagree as to the best approach moving forward (particularly with the new voluntary incentive auctions for broadcast …
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Last week, Professor Susan Crawford authored an op-ed entitled What’s Good for Verizon and AT&T Is Terrible for American Consumers.  While Professor Crawford’s emotional argument is a bit scattered, her depiction of an industry in transition provides a useful foundation for discussing the future of broadband in the United States. First, Professor Crawford argues that wireless broadband is a “commodity,” and one that consumers are increasingly using as a substitute for traditional “voice” and “texting” services.  This substitution is arguably true and, as such, we should therefore expect to see broadband providers increasingly employing and experimenting with a variety of pricing plans in an effort …
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