Creating E-Harmony: Exploring Issues in Telecommunications

May 29, 2007May 30, 2007
B-339 Rayburn House Office Building


Session One: Tuesday, May 29th
A Framework for Evaluating Net Neutrality
Jerry Ellig
Senior Research Fellow 
Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Click Here to view Jerry Ellig's presentation.

Session Two: Wednesday, May 30th
Interoperability in Public Safety Communications

Jerry Brito 
Senior Research Fellow
Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Click Here to view Jerry Brito's presentation.

The past decade has produced dramatic changes in the telecommunications industry.  While the emergence and diffusion of new technologies has radically changed the way in which we communicate, it has also created a host of new regulatory issues for policy makers to address. 

Exactly five years to the day before the September 11, 2001 attacks, the FCC issued a report warning that a lack of interoperability among public safety emergency communications systems was preventing emergency personnel from protecting life and property. "Rescuing victims of the [1993] World Trade Center bombing, who were caught between floors, was hindered when police officers could not communicate with firefighters on the very next floor," the report stated.  Sadly, it was precisely such interoperability problems that would prevent over 100 New York City firefighters from receiving an evacuation order on September 11th before the towers collapsed. Until an improved public safety communications system is actually implemented, tragic outcomes could continue to haunt first responders to public emergencies.

Another contentious issue facing Congress is the current debate over "net neutrality." Proponents argue that net neutrality is necessary to protect the Internet from service providers who could act as "gatekeepers" by putting them in a position where they could favor some products and services over others, and extort payments from content providers for preferential treatment. Critics contend that net neutrality obligations would create disincentives for private investment in the broadband infrastructure that delivers content and applications to consumers.

During the two-day course, participants will be able to engage Mercatus Center faculty as we seek to answer the following questions:

  • How can economic principles help solve difficult problems like public safety communications and ensure healthy competition in broadband markets?
  • What causes the lack of effective communication between local public safety personnel? How have U.S. spectrum policies contributed this problem?
  • What are the different forms of "net neutrality"?
  • What questions should policymakers ask when deciding whether to proceed with net neutrality regulation?