Bronwyn Howell

Bronwyn Howell

Bronwyn Howell is general manager for the New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation and a faculty member of Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She is a board member and secretary to the board of the International Telecommunications Society. She was formerly visiting research scientist at the Helsinki University of Technology. Building on both her formal education in economics and public policy, and her experience as a practitioner in the information technology sector in New Zealand and internationally, Bronwyn researches, teaches and writes on a broad range of matters concerning the Information Economy. Her publication portfolio includes journal articles, book chapters, monographs, working papers and presentations on technological diffusion, intellectual property rights and the contracting for and pricing of information goods. In recent years she has focused on competition and regulatory policy, and the evolution of industry interaction in the telecommunications and information communications technology markets. An area of particular interest has been the comparative effects of different forms of competition and regulation on market performance, especially in small, remote economies such as New Zealand.

Internet speed: How fast is fast enough?

Much has been made of the apparently woeful average speeds of United States broadband connections. Despite evidence of large absolute increases in average Internet speeds, some advocates are concerned that the US is somehow "falling behind" smaller and more densely-populated countries such as Korea, Latvia, and the Netherlands. This supposed lag has been used to bolster calls for greater federal and municipal investment in local broadband infrastructure, particularly Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks for the 20% of residences currently unable to access local networks at speeds meeting the FCC’s definition of broadband (25 Mbps downstream, 3 Mbps upstream). The argument is that it is somehow imperative that the US has the fastest Internet connections in the world, and that to deliver anything less is somehow a “failure” that necessitates government intervention. This line of reasoning is problematic for a number of reasons.

Usage-based pricing: A step up in fairness and effectiveness

It is a truth universally acknowledged in the world of economics that a good or service that is ”free” to the user (after a flat-rate fee to access it – which may be zero – has been paid) will be consumed in much greater quantities than if it was priced in proportion to the costs its use imposes on society. This is the reasoning behind charging patients co-payments and deductibles, for example; doing so reduces the likelihood of individuals visiting the doctor for trivial conditions, and the likelihood of doctors ordering costly and unnecessary tests. Such common-sense pricing mechanisms are ubiquitous in all sectors of modern economies. Except, that is, when it comes to the Internet and the digital economy that it supports. Here, flat-rate pricing is still pervasive, and usage-based pricing models are commonly deemed “unfair.” However, not even these markets are immune from the economic realities of “free” or unmetered resources.
Broadband by

Should Eshoo’s broadband bill be a regulatory shoo-in?

Rumor has it that Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) is preparing to reintroduce the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act, a bill which requires the inclusion of “pipes” capable of carrying multiple broadband infrastructures in new federal highway projects. How does this idea jive with the economics of telecommunications networks?
Learning by

Do more computers and software really make students better learners?

In 1987, Nobel Economics Laureate Robert Solow famously quipped, “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” Nearly three decades later, the OECD has made a similar observation – this time, about the computer age as it relates to education around the globe. It has found little evidence that large investments in computers and software have made students smarter or more productive. In fact, in some instances, they may have dumbed students down.