Tech Policy

Tech Policy

Research

Brent Skorup, Christopher Koopman | May 19, 2016
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the power to approve or deny any transfer of licenses issued under its jurisdiction. In recent years, the FCC has increasingly been using this power to review mergers and extract regulatory concessions from merging companies as a way to enforce rules that it is otherwise unable or unwilling to promulgate through the normal rulemaking process. The FCC has used its ability to extract these merger conditions to skirt statutory, and in some cases constitutional, limits on its power, posing a threat to good governance, free speech, and the rule of law.
Jerry Brito, Andrea Castillo | May 03, 2016
As the world’s first decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin has the potential to revolutionize online payment systems and commerce in ways that benefit both consumers and businesses. Individuals can now avoid using an intermediary such as PayPal or submitting credit card information to a third party for verification—both of which often involve transaction fees, restrictions, and security risks—and instead use bitcoins to pay each other directly for goods or services.
Eli Dourado, Samuel Hammond | Mar 14, 2016
Yet many drones weighing more than 250g are little more than toys. Do they really pose a risk to the airspace? To explore this question, we examine 25 years of data from the FAA’s wildlife strike database. Although aircraft collide with birds many thousands of times per year, only a tiny fraction of those collisions result in damage to the aircraft, much less human injuries or deaths. The most serious reported incidents typically involved flocks of large birds. Since the addition of UAS to the airspace is similar in many respects to an increase in the bird population, we conclude that the risk to the airspace caused by small drones (for example, weighing up to 2kg, or 4.41 pounds) flying in solitary formation is minimal.
Eli Dourado, Christopher Koopman | Dec 10, 2015
We report on new data received from the Internal Revenue Service that sheds light on the changes in independent contracting. Our data support the claim that there has been an increase in nontraditional employment, but the data refute the idea that this increase is caused by the sharing-economy firms that have arisen since 2008. Instead, we view the rise of sharing-economy firms as a response to a stagnant traditional labor sector and a product of the growing independent workforce.
Alexander Salter | Sep 23, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University conducts an economically rigorous analysis of the problems posed by space debris and concludes that the problem is significantly more legally, institutionally, and economically complicated than some may believe.
Brent Skorup | Aug 19, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that auctioning overlay licenses is an effective means of repurposing underused federal spectrum for consumer uses. Overlay licenses have been used to reassign nonfederal spectrum but never federal spectrum. The paper presents new evidence from a 2006 spectrum auction (AWS-1) that suggests billions of dollars of underused federal spectrum could be deployed more quickly than other policy alternatives. Crucially, overlay licenses allow agencies to receive payment for spectrum sales, and this reordering of spectrum rights would benefit taxpayers and wireless broadband users.

Testimony & Comments

Eli Dourado | Mar 10, 2016
We are at an exciting point in the history of unmanned aircraft. I think of drones as occupying a similar position now as the Internet did in the late 1980s. As members of this committee know, until 1989, use of the Internet for commercial purposes was generally prohibited. The removal of that prohibition resulted in an explosion of innovation, much of it completely unanticipated, that has persisted until today.
Adam Thierer | Mar 03, 2016
If America hopes to be a global leader in wearable technologies, as it has been for the Internet more generally over the past two decades, then the country first has to get public policy right. America took a commanding lead in the digital economy because, in the mid-1990s, Congress and the Clinton administration crafted a nonpartisan vision for the Internet that protected “permissionless innovation”—the idea that experimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted without prior approval.
Eli Dourado, Samuel Hammond | Jan 15, 2016
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an interim final rule creating a new electronic registration system for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and requiring, for the first time, the registration of model aircraft operators. This comment highlights an omission in the agency’s alternative scenario analysis, questions some of the purported benefits of the rule, and points out some of the continuing legal shortcomings associated with the FAA’s approach. While we support the advent of a simple and streamlined registration system, we object to the extension of the registration requirement to model aircraft operators.
Brent Skorup | Dec 21, 2015
Contrary to Title II proponents’ claims, wireless carriers do not infringe free speech rights when they filter text messaging content they believe their customers do not wish to receive. Title II regulation of text messaging and short code service would not protect free speech. In fact, because mobile carriers exercise editorial discretion over mass messages they transmit, regulation would impermissibly chill wireless carriers’ exercise of speech. Further, since wireless carriers transmit short codes and other messaging based on individual arrangements and exercise control over the content of certain messages, messaging does not resemble telecommunications. For these reasons, regulating short code and similar messaging services under Title II of the Communications Act would likely be unconstitutional and contrary to law.
Eli Dourado, Samuel Hammond | Nov 06, 2015
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing to implement a national registration system for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), the details of which are to be recom- mended by a task force no later than November 20. The stated aim of the registry is to assist in identifying owners and operators of UASs that violate the law and endanger safety, thereby closing a perceived gap in enforcement. This comment highlights several major procedural concerns, followed by an examination of whether the safety benefits of a registry are likely to outweigh the societal and budgetary costs.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Adam Thierer | May 26, 2015
The commission should shift enforcement efforts away from stopping private restraint of trade and toward stopping public restraint of trade. In light of George Stigler’s observation that “the state has one basic resource which in pure principle is not shared with even the mightiest of its citizens: the power to coerce,” the commission would be wise to adopt Commissioner Wright’s approach and shift resources toward fighting public restraint of trade.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Adam Thierer, Michael Wilt | Mar 31, 2016
Technological innovation fuels economic growth. For innovation to flourish, though, policymakers must send entrepreneurs a clear green light signaling a general acceptance of risk-taking that challenges existing business models and traditional ways of doing things. This approach to policy can be labeled “permissionless innovation.” If there were one thing every policymaker could do to help advance long-term economic growth, it would be to commit to making permissionless innovation the lodestar for all future policy pronouncements and decisions.
Brent Skorup | Mar 21, 2016
In a new article published in National Affairs, Mercatus research fellow Brent Skorup demonstrates that the discretion that Congress has afforded the FCC has undermined, rather than advanced, the public interest. In this era of growing competition and innovation, the FCC’s authority should be increasingly curtailed, if not eliminated outright.
Eli Dourado, Andrea Castillo, Michael Wilt | Nov 09, 2015
Cybersecurity policy should refrain from imposing sweeping, expensive, top-down solutions that could increase rigidities of existing systems. The federal government can better protect American information systems by shoring up its own network vulnerabilities, supporting strong encryption techniques, and reforming laws to encourage security research and report- ing, so that the entities best positioned to do so can strengthen their own cybersecurity.
Adam Thierer, Andrea Castillo | Jun 15, 2015
The next big wave of data-driven technological innovation will connect physical devices embedded with tiny computing devices to the Internet in an effort to seamlessly improve the measurements, communications, flexibility, and customization of our daily needs and activities. This “Internet of Things” (IoT) is already growing at a breakneck pace and is expected to continue to accelerate rapidly.
| Sep 24, 2013
The Mercatus State Policy Guide is intended to summarize and condense the best research available on the most relevant topics. It’s a starting point for discussion, not a comprehensive overview of economic policy. Each statement is supported by academic research, with links provided in the endnotes. Mercatus scholars are available to further explain the results of their studies. We hope the guide will prove to be a valuable tool in your economic policy research.
| Jul 23, 2013
The Mercatus Policy Guide is intended to summarize and condense the best research available on the most pressing topics. It serves as a starting point for discussion, not a comprehensive overview of economic policy. Anyone who wants to go deeper into these studies should consult the references listed at the back. Mercatus scholars are available to further explain the results of their studies. We hope the guide will prove to be a valuable tool in your evaluation of economic policy.

Speeches & Presentations

Expert Commentary

May 10, 2016

The battle between the FBI and Apple over law enforcement access to encrypted communications may have died down a bit, but the international War on Crypto rages on.
May 03, 2016

America’s information technology innovators have taken a commanding global lead at the dawn of the Digital Age for a simple reason: They didn’t need anyone’s blessing to launch the next great gadget or service.
Apr 26, 2016

How long will it be until the FCC looks to regulate online video platforms and applications like the rest of its portfolio? If the agency’s history is any guide, this outcome is unfortunately quite likely.
Apr 12, 2016

The FBI may have been able to unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s work-related iPhone without conscripting Apple as an unwilling hacker, but that has not slowed down the government’s broader war on encrypted technologies one bit.
Mar 24, 2016

The success of online video illustrates that TV providers don’t require members of Congress and bureaucrats dictating how to give consumers affordable, quality TV — content creators have done that on their own.
Mar 23, 2016

The FBI says a mysterious "outside party" has found a way to unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone without assistance from Apple.

Charts

In March of this year, the first FAA-approved autonomous commercial drone delivery to an urban residence took place in Nevada. This milestone highlights the exciting opportunities that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can present. If we get our policies right, UASs can yield dividends in cost savings and economic growth in areas like consumer delivery, agriculture, industrial management, and journalism. A new FAA report suggests that a poorly considered regulatory regime could severely inhibit the growth of this promising industry before it has a chance to take flight.

Experts

Eli Dourado is a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program. He specializes in Internet governance, intellectual property, cryptocurrency, Internet security, and the economics of technology.
Michael Farren is a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Michael was a Mercatus Center Frédéric Bastiat Fellow.
Christopher Koopman is a research fellow with the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Matthew Mitchell is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he is the director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism. He is also an adjunct professor of economics at Mason. In his writing and research, he specializes in economic freedom and economic growth, public-choice economics, and the economics of government favoritism toward particular businesses.
Brent Skorup is a research fellow in the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research topics include wireless policy, new media regulation, competition, and telecommunications.

Podcasts

Eli Dourado | February 01, 2016
Eli Dourado discusses the rise off the 1099 workforce and its relation to the gig economy on KPCC radio (CA)

Recent Events

Please join us for a high-level discussion between Adam Thierer and Wendell Wallach - two scholars who have very different responses to technology's impact on society.

Books

Adam Thierer | Mar 15, 2016
In this book, Adam Thierer argues that if the former disposition, “the precautionary principle,” trumps the latter, “permissionless innovation,” the result will be fewer services, lower-quality goods, higher prices, diminished economic growth, and a decline in the overall standard of living.

Media Clippings

Adam Thierer | May 05, 2015
This excerpt originally appeared in the Boston Review.
Adam Thierer, Christopher Koopman | Jan 25, 2015
This excerpt originally appeared in Wall Street Journal.
Eli Dourado | Sep 06, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in The Hill.
Adam Thierer | Jul 03, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Real Clear Policy.
Jerry Brito | Jun 02, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Yahoo News.
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