Technology Policy Program

Technology Policy Program

The Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University works within the university setting to improve the state of knowledge and debate about the regulation of the Internet and high technology.

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.
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.
Anthony D. Glosson | Aug 10, 2015
This paper seeks to synthesize the available legal resources on active defense. It confronts the intertwined definitional, legal, and policy questions implicated in the active defense debate. The paper then proposes a legal framework to authorize active defenses subject to liability for third-party damages, an approach grounded in the technical and economic realities of the network security market.
Robert Krol | Jun 24, 2015
In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, economist Robert Krol demonstrates that governments are more likely to set up barriers to new technology when the performance advantage of the new technology is small or incremental and lobbying costs are low. Incumbent businesses threatened by a new technology may use the government to block businesses using the new technology from entering the market. Ultimately, government protection of incumbent businesses reduces consumer well-being.

Testimony & Comments

Adam Thierer | Jun 01, 2016
My name is Adam Thierer, and I am a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where I study technology policy. Along with other Mercatus Center scholars, I have conducted extensive research on the questions raised in the NTIA’s Internet of Things (IoT) proceeding. Accordingly, I am pleased to submit for the record two recently published Mercatus Center articles. The first article is a compendium of statistics on the economic impact of the IoT and wearables that I coauthored with Andrea Castillo. The second is a law review article I authored for the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology last year.
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.

Speeches & Presentations

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Charts

Eli Dourado, Joseph Kane, Andrea Castillo | Apr 27, 2016
The FBI’s recent conflict with Apple over accessing a locked iPhone in its investigation of the San Bernardino terrorist attack eventually settled out of court when an external party was able to unlock the device. Contrary to the government’s claims that this incident was about just one iPhone, this was far from the first time that law enforcement cited the All Writs Act of 1789 (AWA) to compel private companies to compromise secure devices. This week’s chart shows that law enforcement agencies have attempted to apply this law numerous times in recent years for a range of criminal offenses, particularly drug-related crimes.

Experts

Adam Thierer is a senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in technology, media, Internet, and free-speech policies, with a particular focus on online safety and digital privacy. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Forbes, and he has appeared on national television and radio. Thierer is a frequent guest lecturer and has testified numerous times on Capitol Hill.
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.
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.
Jerry Ellig is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a former assistant professor of economics at George Mason University. He specializes in the federal regulatory process, economic regulation, and telecommunications regulation.

Videos

Richard Williams, Pietro Peretto, Adam Millsap, Dustin Chambers, William Beach, Patrick McLaughlin, J. W. Verret, Adam Thierer | May 10, 2016
Information, investment and innovation are the engines of economic growth in the 21st century. Yet regulatory accumulation and outdated regulatory processes are preventing both the private and public sectors from effectively using the three “I’s” to solve problems and grow the economy.

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

Brent Skorup | June 21, 2016
Please join the Mercatus Center at George Mason University as a panel of telecommunication policy experts discuss U.S. Telecom, the future of the FCC, and the communications laws that need reform for the modern information economy.

Books

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.
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