Lifeline by Shutterstock

Why we need a market-driven, consumer-focused revamp of the Lifeline program

The basic tenet of universal service – that the government should assist those who cannot afford basic access to the telecommunications network – has long been a cornerstone of the nation’s telecommunications policy. As I have discussed in an earlier post, this assistance is justified by network effects: the larger the number of people a network reaches, the more valuable that network is to each user. Universal service also supports non-economic goals such as improved civic participation, enhanced economic opportunities, free speech, and public safety. As the telephone gives way to the Internet as the nation’s primary telecommunications network, Congress must consider options to narrow the digital divide and assist low-income consumers who cannot afford basic network access.
Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the "Innocence of Muslims," holds a news conference outside her attorney's office in Los Angeles, September 20, 2012. REUTERS

The Innocence of Muslims: When IP, free speech, and national security collide

“This world here,” Seinfeld’s George Costanza famously exclaimed, “this is George’s sanctuary. If Susan comes into contact with this world, his worlds collide!” As in George’s dystopian nightmare, the worlds of intellectual property, free speech, and national security collided on Monday in an important ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that Google needn’t remove from its various platforms (primarily YouTube) the film “The Innocence of Muslims.” This ruling came despite the copyright and security claims of one of the film’s “performers.” While the court’s reasoning appears sound, we can expect even more complex conundrums in the future.
Rural broadband by Shutterstock

The rural-urban divide on broadband adoption and pricing: Fact or fiction?

Much has been made in social, economic and policy commentary about a broadband divide between rural and urban communities, and the implications this divide may have on the abilities of both individuals and communities to prosper in a digital society. Variations in broadband adoption rates between rural and urban communities have served as the basis for calls to politicians and regulators to “do something” to redress the balance. In particular, many have pushed for policymakers to address discrepancies in consumer prices between the two camps. Surely, the argument goes, if everyone paid the same price, then adoption would equalize, and the divide would be closed? If only it was that easy.
Global broadband by Shutterstock

Graphing broadband adoption around the world

Who doesn’t love statistics? I certainly do. Especially when they are presented in an interactive and highly visual way. One website that does a superb job of this is, which lets you explore all sorts of data, including the state of broadband around the world. The Gapminder data shows us the strong positive relationship between broadband penetration and liberty. How can you see this? Go to Gapminder World, which is the site that lets you build your own graphs, and form a logarithmic graph with broadband subscribers per 100 people on the vertical axis and GDP per capita on the horizontal axis. One of first things you should notice is something that isn’t surprising: In 2010, which is the last year for broadband data on the site, there was a clear positive relationship between proportion of broadband subscribers in a county and its GDP per capita.