Gus Hurwitz

Gus Hurwitz

Gus Hurwitz, a visiting fellow at AEI's Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy, is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law, where he teaches telecommunications law, cyber law, law and economics, and other regulation-related subjects. His research builds on his background in law, technology, and economics to consider the interface between law and technology and the role of regulation in high-tech industries. He has a particular expertise in telecommunications law and technology. He was previously the inaugural research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition, and before that was a visiting assistant professor at George Mason University Law School. He previously spent several years as a trial attorney with the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s Telecommunications and Media Enforcement Section. Hurwitz has a background in technology and worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory. During this time, his work was recognized with professional awards from organizations such as the Federal Laboratory Consortium, R&D Magazine, Los Alamos National Lab, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California. In addition, he held an Internet2 Land Speed world record with the Guinness Book of World Records. Hurwitz is a co-blogger at Truth on the Market.
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The price of progress: Rent seeking in the FCC’s approval of the AT&T/DirecTV merger

Operating under its broad public interest standard, the FCC is largely free to ask firms for an almost unlimited range of concessions in exchange for favorable outcomes in matters before the commission. Such rent-seeking is business as usual. In the merger context, the only practical limit on what the commission can request is however much the parties are willing to give up before walking away from the deal. Past examples have included requiring firms to make “voluntary” donations to support public safety initiatives, agreeing to abide by net neutrality requirements that had been rejected by the courts, offering wholesale discounts to competitors, repatriating outsourced jobs, offering discounted accesses to disadvantaged communities, and more. While these conditions often represent laudable goals, they often are unrelated to the matter before the commission. And they frequently impose obligations upon the transaction that are otherwise outside of the commission’s legal authority.

That’s the sound of the (policy) police: The FCC and Sprint’s unlimited data plan debacle

Last week was a stressful one for Sprint’s CEO, Marcelo Claure. Following a botched announcement of Sprint’s new all-in mobile data plan – and the backlash that ensued – the company made an abrupt 180, dropping a policy that many consumers found to be misleading. It was a great example of how competition should play out: firms competing to offer consumers better options and calling each other out when they behave badly, without any need for regulators to get involved. But as bad as this last week was for Claure, it should be seen as worse for the FCC, whose net neutrality rules likely drove Sprint to offer its consumer-unfriendly plan in the first place. 
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Did the Supreme Court just drive a stick into the spokes of the FCC’s Virtuous Cycle?

One of the most potent pending challenges to the FCC’s Open Internet Order will be based on the Supreme Court’s opinion last year in Utility Air Regulatory Group. That case, which the court has affirmatively cited several times this past term, rejected EPA efforts to “tailor” provisions of the Clean Air Act, effectively rewriting the Act to facilitate its policy goals. There is a strong – if not perfect – analogy to be drawn between the EPA’s approach to the Clean Air Act in that case and the FCC’s need to use forbearance in the Open Internet Order to make the rules viable. The court’s latest rejection of the EPA’s efforts to stretch the limits of the Clean Air Act to reach its own policy goals presents yet another potent challenge to the FCC’s Open Internet Order.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere speaks at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2014. REUTERS

Is T-Mobile’s John Legere a dingo?

John Legere likes free stuff. He really likes free stuff. A lot. As I discussed last week, in its planned merger with Dish, T-Mobile (of which Legere is CEO) stands to benefit from Dish’s successful manipulation of the FCC’s AWS-3 auction rules to get over $3 billion in free spectrum. A few years ago, T-Mobile was given $4 billion in cash and spectrum break-up fees by AT&T when the FCC blocked the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. And in the past week, Legere has redoubled his efforts to secure substantial spectrum “set-asides” from the FCC that would benefit T-Mobile in the upcoming incentive auction, releasing an entertaining and profanity-laced video that falls just one step short of calling FCC Chairman Wheeler a dingo.
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The Dish/T-Mobile merger and the first rule of Spectrum Club

The first rule of Spectrum Club is… get spectrum as quickly as possible into the hands of someone who will put it to its highest-value use. So long as spectrum gets into the hands of firms that can effectively and quickly put it to use, the consumer benefits are roughly the same no matter who wins spectrum at auction. Conversely, delaying this process even by a few months – for instance, by designing complex rules in an effort to maximize the revenue raised by an auction, or by jury-rigging the results to ensure politically favorable outcomes – can have substantial costs for consumers. The recent AWS-3 auction demonstrates what can go wrong when the FCC violates this first rule of spectrum auctions. Curiously, the pending Dish/T-Mobile merger presents the FCC with an opportunity to make things worse in an effort to correct its auction design mistakes.