The Net Effect: Exploring Issues in Telecommunications

Aug 21, 2007Aug 23, 2007
B-339 Rayburn House Office Building


Session 1: Tuesday, August 21st
U.S. Broadband Access

Dr. Gerry Faulhaber
University of Pennsylvania

Click Here to listen to an audio presentation of Session One.

Click Here to view the powerpoint presentation from Session 1.

Session 2: Wednesday, August 22nd
Revisiting Net Neutrality 

Dr. Jerry Ellig
Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Click Here to listen to an audio presentation of Session Two.

Click Here to view the powerpoint presentation from Session 2.

Session 3: Thursday, August 23rd
Exploring the Economics of Spectrum Auctions
Dr. Tom Hazlett
George Mason University 

Advances in telecommunications over the last decade have significantly enhanced the way we live, learn, communicate, and do business. Few understand this fact better than the folks on BlackBerry Hill. However, while the emergence and diffusion of new technologies has radically changed our daily lives, it has also created a host of new regulatory issues for policy makers to address.

A recent survey has estimated that U.S. broadband access grew at its slowest rate in recent years. Some international comparisons place the U.S. as low as 24th in broadband penetration, with rural America remaining considerably less connected than urban and suburban areas. Despite the slowdown, the Internet is still out pacing other consumer technology in reaching the 50 percent consumer adoption rate. Color televisions took 18 years, cell phones 15 years and CD players 10.5 years. Nonetheless, given the international pressures of a global economy, is this fast enough?

One of the biggest changes is the last ten years is the explosion in wireless technology. This boom will no doubtedly continue to be fueled by the FCC's planned auction of radio spectrum in the 700-MHz band this January. The auction is expected to generate enormous benefits for consumers, but already it has generated a lot of political debate over conditions the FCC should put on the spectrum before the bidding. These conditions can have a massive effect on how the spectrum is utilized and valued. As such, policy makers need to be familiar with how these auctions are designed and how different structures can produce different outcomes.

Another contentious issue facing Congress is the current debate over "net neutrality." In May, Mercatus presented a program outlining how to analyze net neutrality using the framework commonly employed by federal agencies to asses proposed regulations. Since that course, the FTC's Internet Access Task Force has released a report and hundreds of comments have been filed in response to an FCC inquiry. In order to sort through this new information, Mercatus Senior Research Fellow, Jerry Ellig, will build upon his previous discussion and apply the regulatory analysis framework to the latest developments in the net neutrality debate. 

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

  • What does economics teach us about the most effective ways to analyze telecommunications policy goals?
  • How is the U.S. performing in increasing its broadband infrastructure? What are the challenges the rural communities face? Can broadband expansion be performed effectively at the state or local level?
  • What are the latest developments in the net neutrality debate? How well does the FTC Staff Report apply the regulatory analysis framework? To what extent could the FCC apply the framework, given the information submitted in its inquiry?
  • How does spectrum policy affect the telecommunications industry and the overall economy? What insights can economics provide into the different auction rules being proposed?