Category Archives: Law and Economics

Second Circuit Debunks FCC’s Set-Top Box Arguments

Posted on by

Last February, the FCC launched yet another attempt to excise itself from (in the immortal words of former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell) the “Valley of Unattained Goals” of Section 629.  To justify its aggressive regulatory intervention, the Commission argued that (1) there is a separate market for set-top boxes over which MVPDs allegedly exercise market power; and, as such, (2) the rates consumers pay to rent set-top boxes, to put it colloquially, are “too damn high.” While such arguments make for great populist fodder, the problem is that the Commission’s foundational arguments underlying their set-top box proposal simply are not Continue Reading »

Municipal Broadband and Predatory Pricing…

Posted on by

In the wake of the Federal Communication Commission’s pre-emption of state laws overseeing municipal broadband networks in North Carolina and Tennessee, I was asked by the State Government Leadership Foundation (SGLF)—a non-profit organization that helps state governments develop sound policy through education, research, and training—to conduct an economic analysis of municipal broadband to help state legislators better understand the issue.  Last month, the SGLF released the final product of my effort.  The paper is both long (nearly 70 pages) and dense, using economic theory to describe what municipal broadband is and what it is not.  I don’t wish to cover Continue Reading »

The FCC’s Intellectual and Empirical Vacuum Over Market Power for Special Access Services

Posted on by

It’s been over eighty years since the Communications Act of 1934 created the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) for the purpose of overseeing the nation’s communications industries.  Still, as revealed most recently in the Commission’s Tariff Investigation Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Special Access Services (hereinafter “BDS Further Notice”) the Agency has no idea how to define or measure market power in telecommunications markets.  In fact, its BDS Further Notice offers no apparent definition of market power, which is a significant deficiency for a regulatory regime allegedly based on the presence of market power. There are some hints Continue Reading »

The Investment Effects of the FCC’s New Asymmetrical Privacy Regime…

Posted on by

Last September, I participated in a conference sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation entitled “The Internet of Everything: Data, Networks and Opportunities.”  As part of my presentation, I discussed an essay I co-authored with Phoenix Center Chief Economist Dr. George Ford entitled Information, Investment and the Internet of Everything.  In this essay, George and I pointed out that as a consequence of the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) decision in March 2015 to reclassify broadband Internet access as a Title II common carrier “telecommunications” service in its controversial Open Internet Order, all Broadband Service Providers (“BSPs”)—whether wireline, cable or Continue Reading »

Special Access and the FCC’s Regulatory Revival…

Posted on by

There is a Chinese proverb, though some call it a curse, which says “May you live in interesting times.” For those involved in telecommunications policy over the last few decades, I think it’s safe to say we are now living in interesting times. Since before and certainly after the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the communications industry has undergone a competitive and deregulatory revolution. Twenty years ago the cross-entry of phone companies into video markets and video companies into phone markets was a running joke, but no longer. It’s a reality. Video regulation, which was a disaster even under monopoly conditions, has Continue Reading »

2014 Year in Review…

Posted on by

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 Continue Reading »

Title II Reclassification and the Price Regulation of Retail Broadband Services…

Posted on by

Last month, Larry Spiwak and I published a paper entitled Tariffing the Internet: Pricing Implications of Classifying Broadband as a Title II Telecommunications Service in which we outlined how the reclassification of broadband as a Title II telecommunications service would work in practice. (See Larry’s Op-Ed for a condensed version.) Since net neutrality seems aimed at prohibiting “paid prioritization,” we concluded that reclassification must lead to a positively-priced and tariffed termination service. That is, edge providers will be required to pay broadband providers to terminate their traffic. Today, they do not. No one has yet to make any reasonable argument Continue Reading »

Should the Government Allow Further Consolidation in the U.S. Mobile Market?

Posted on by

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 Continue Reading »

A Quick Primer on the FCC’s “Public Interest” Merger Review Authority…

Posted on by

As we all know by now, Comcast announced that it would be acquiring Time Warner in a deal worth about $45.2 billion.  Given the high profile of this acquisition, I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight once again the ample case law on the bounds of the Federal Communications Commission’s “public interest” merger review authority.  (For a full exegesis, please see my law review Separating Politics from Policy in FCC Merger Reviews: A Basic Legal Primer of The “Public Interest” Standard, 18 CommLaw Conspectus 329 (2010) which is available on the Phoenix Center’s webpage here.) First, FCC merger Continue Reading »

In Response to Mark Cooper…

Posted on by

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 Continue Reading »