AustraliasBroadband by Shutterstock

Mandated firm structure threatens Australia’s broadband market

Few people would disagree with the notion that the digital economy is driven by innovation. This notion pertains as much to innovations in industrial organization as it does to the creation of new value for consumers. Think of the huge benefits brought about by the implementation of just-in-time inventory management a few decades ago, when it became clear that better information and lower transportation costs enabled firms such as Dell to reduce their on-site inventories and make more efficient use of scarce physical and human capital. And, more recently, the introduction of self-service checkouts at busy supermarkets has given consumers the option of scanning and packing their own goods or waiting in line for a checkout operator to do it for them. Clearly, if these new institutional arrangements are to be discovered and developed, then firms need the freedom to try new ways of doing old things – to slice and dice the various components of their activities in different ways, bringing some in-house, outsourcing others, and generally rearranging the order in which they do things.
AT&Tcrammingcase by Rob Wilson /

FTC overlooks true villains in AT&T cramming settlement

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a $105 million multi-agency settlement with AT&T Mobility LLC. The FTC, along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and various state law enforcement officials, had accused the wireless provider of unlawfully billing customers for third-party charges – a practice known as “cramming.” The settlement is a significant milestone, not only in the government’s ongoing efforts to control cramming but also in the use of...

Truthy&Twitter by Shutterstock

Truthy’s study of tweets may be problematic, but government funding of it definitely is

Do you use Twitter? Do you like free speech?  Then this article is a must read.  FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai just wrote an eye-opening op-ed on how the government is supporting a study of your tweet content.  This time the agency of interest is not the NSA, it’s the National Science Foundation (NSF) – an institution that was founded to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense.”  According to Pai, the NSF has already spent $1 million to fund a project to collect and analyze your Twitter data – including (and perhaps focusing on) political data.
Google'sOpenPatentPledge by Denys Prykhodov /

Google’s “Open Patent Pledge” – A cooperative solution in a litigious world

While patent protection is critical for defending innovation from rapacious copyists, sometimes other concerns trump the need to bolster intellectual property. Take Google’s “Open Patent Pledge,” a program whereby Google has dedicated some 250 of its patents to the public in an effort to promote open-source (OS) software and the interoperability of its products with others. The Open Source Initiative characterizes OS software as “software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process” in order to provide “better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.”