Tech Policy

Tech Policy

Research

Eli Dourado, Andrea Castillo | Apr 17, 2014
This paper will describe the current dynamic provision of cybersecurity and explain how a technocratic solution like the Cybersecurity Framework could weaken this process and ultimately undermine cybersecurity.
Daniel Lyons | Mar 18, 2014
Although intended to promote competition and innovation among Internet content providers,“net neutrality” rules reduce innovation by broadband service providers. Within limits, broadband providers may offer different plans that vary the quantity and quality of their service. But they usually cannot vary the service itself: broadband providers are generally required to offer customers access to all lawful Internet traffic, or none at all. This all-or-nothing broadband homogenization places America increasingly at odds with international markets, particularly with regard to mobile broadband. This paper examines the diverse array of wireless broadband products available worldwide, and uses these international innovations to illuminate the difficulties posed by net neutrality principles in the United States. Broadband access is merely one part of a much broader Internet ecosystem. Regulators’ focus on one narrow set of relationships in that ecosystem retards innovation and limits the ability of Americans to share in the global revolution currently taking place for mobile services.
Eli Dourado, Alexander Tabarrok | Nov 21, 2013
We mine two underexplored traditions for insights into intellectual property: the public choice or Virginia school, centered on James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, and the Bloomington or Institutional Analysis and Development school, centered on Elinor Ostrom and Vincent Ostrom. We apply the perspectives of each school to issues of intellectual property and develop new insights, questions, and focuses of attention. We also explore tensions and synergies between the two schools on issues of intellectual property.
James C. Cooper | Nov 05, 2013
Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act gives the FTC an undefined mandate to prosecute “unfair methods of competition.” For nearly 100 years, the Commission has searched tirelessly for the meaning of this amorphous concept. Since 1992, the FTC has continued to define Section 5 through a series of consent decrees. Absent any external constraint, the FTC appears to have broad discretion to define the reach of Section 5 beyond the Sherman Act. This discretion causes uncertainty, which is likely to deter beneficial conduct.
Jerry Ellig | Oct 18, 2013
Historically, the FCC’s Universal Service Fund has paid for two programs that subsidize telephone service for low-income households. Lifeline, the larger program, pays phone companies to reduce monthly subscription fees for low-income households by an average of $9.25 per month, with some states providing additional funding. Link Up subsidizes one-time connection charges by up to $30.2 In 2012, the FCC voted to phase out Link Up.
William Luther | Sep 17, 2013
Cryptocurrencies are digital alternatives to traditional government-issued paper monies. Given the current state of technology and skepticism regarding the future purchasing power of existing monies, why have cryptocurrencies failed to gain widespread acceptance?

Testimony & Comments

Jerry Brito | Apr 02, 2014
Online virtual currencies are nothing new. They have existed for decades—from World of Warcraft Gold to Facebook Credits to e-gold. Neither are online payments systems new. PayPal, Visa, and Western Union Pay are all examples. So what is it about Bitcoin that makes it unique? Bitcoin is the world’s first completely decentralized digital currency. Its decentralized nature results in lower transactions costs, making it particularly attractive to small businesses. It could also be an attractive electronic payments option for consumers, including the unbanked and underbanked. Risks include volatility and security, but these are not problems inherent in Bitcoin’s design.
Brent Skorup | Mar 18, 2014
Current television law makes programming agreements circuitous and distorts market forces. The Congressional Research Service says that “the negotiations between programmers and distributors, although private, are strongly affected by statutory and regulatory requirements and cannot be properly characterized as free-market.” Every television industry segment has received some regulatory favors though the decades. Most concerning is that there is “a thicket of communications law requirements aimed at protecting and supporting the broadcast industry,” as the Copyright Office has said.
Eli Dourado | Mar 10, 2014
That many nongovernmental stakeholder communities are electing to participate in Internet governance processes on their own account implies that governments lack the consent necessary to legitimately exercise a primary role.
Brent Skorup | Feb 24, 2014
Supporters of the blackout rules—like some sports leagues and broadcasters—argue that forcing blackouts on cable and satellite providers helps maintain free over-the-air broadcasts. That specious argument should be disregarded. Unlike the 1970s, few Americans now rely solely on broadcast television for their entertainment, so the FCC’s ill-advised attempt to shape markets only inhibits free competition.
Jerry Brito | Nov 18, 2013
We are ultimately advocating not for Bitcoin, but for innovation. It is important that policymakers allow this experimentation to continue. Policymakers should work to clarify how Bitcoin is regulated and to normalize its regulation so that we have the opportunity to learn just how innovative Bitcoin can be.
Adam Thierer | May 31, 2013
While it is unclear what may come from this proceeding, the danger exists that it represents the beginning of a regulatory regime for a new set of information technologies that are still in their infancy. Fearing hypothetical worst-case scenarios about the misuse of some IoT technologies, some policy activists and policymakers could seek to curb or control their development.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Expert Commentary

Apr 21, 2014

With Congress debating the Commerce Department’s plans to gradually relinquish its administrative control of the Internet’s domain name system, policymakers and stakeholders from around the world are headed to Brazil’s NetMundial conference to discuss the future of Internet governance.
Mar 06, 2014

Tech entrepreneurs have successfully disrupted industry after industry — from journalism to retailing to music and TV — by leveraging the internet-driven principle of permissionless innovation. It’s time for finance to be added to that list. After all, consumers are the ones who benefit from innovation that makes financial services cheaper, faster, and more convenient. Ensuring that consumers are absolutely safe may not make them better off overall if doing so means they only have access to expensive, telegraph-era services.
Feb 24, 2014

Bitcoin has been going through a rough patch lately. The slow motion implosion of the once-largest exchange. The arrest of a notable evangelist. The bug that the media blew out of proportion, but that attackers still exploited. This is what the world has heard about Bitcoin in the last few weeks.
Feb 24, 2014

In the early decades of the NFL and other major sports leagues, believe it or not, many teams were losing money and the leagues needed to improve ticket sales. An infamous 1952 game between the Chicago Bears and now-defunct Dallas Texans drew only 3,000 fans on Thanksgiving Day. By blacking out game broadcasts in home cities, the NFL and other major sports leagues believed, reasonably, they could improve stadium attendance.
Feb 20, 2014

The initial reaction to media mega-mergers is typically a mix of fear and dread with calls for regulatory intervention - and that's certainly true of Comcast's recently announced acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The proposed $45.2 billion combination of these two cable and Internet giants already set off waves of panic.
Feb 17, 2014

The practice of one party subsidizing a customer’s consumption is common in many industries. Particularly for media, information, and publishing, companies — a business model that represents or touches every major tech company these days.

Charts

Experts

Podcasts

Adam Thierer | April 09, 2014
Adam Thierer Discusses Permissionless Innovation and Tech Policy on the CATO Daily Podcast

Upcoming Events

Recent Events

Mercatus Center technology policy scholars Jerry Brito, Eli Dourado, and Adam Thierer will discuss the emerging technologies of drones, Bitcoin, and 3D printing.

Books

Adam Thierer | Mar 25, 2014
What policy vision will govern the future of technological innovation? Will innovators be forced to constantly seek the blessing of public officials before they develop and deploy new devices and services, or will they be generally left free to experiment with new technologies and business models?

Media Clippings

Jerry Brito | Mar 06, 2014
Jerry Brito quoted at Bloomberg.
| Feb 06, 2014
Jerry Brito quoted at The New York Times.
Eli Dourado | Feb 04, 2014
Eli Dourado cited at The Washington Post.
Jerry Brito | Jan 24, 2014
Jerry Brito cited at Bloomberg.
Jerry Brito | Oct 15, 2013
Piracydata.org was created by two tech policy researchers at the Mercatus Center, a libertarian think tank, and by Matt Sherman, a software engineer based in New York. The team's leader, Jerry Brito, says he got the idea for the site after a hearing in which major content holders criticized Google for failing to do enough to combat piracy. That criticism came despite the fact that Google has taken a number of steps to prevent illegal sharing of copyrighted works.
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