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By T. Randolph Beard, PhD, George S. Ford, PhD, and Michael Stern, PhD
For the last twenty years, promoting broadband adoption has been a focal point of communications policy around the world. Despite significant advances, there is still much work to be done. To help bridge this adoption gap, private communications companies are now offering services at deeply discounted prices or even for free in many countries. Facebook’s “Free Basics” program, for instance, helps to address the awareness, digital literacy, and affordability barriers to adoption by offering consumers in more than forty-five countries free access to basic online services such as communication tools, health services, educational information, and job tools. By increasing digital awareness, many of the program’s users upgrade to fee-based services to access the broader Internet in a short amount of time. Nonetheless, questions are being raised about the propriety of the basic connectivity offered by such programs. Using economic theory, we demonstrate that the price-quality variations of such programs are economically sensible, if not necessary, to address the key barriers to adoption without attenuating investment incentives. In addition, we demonstrate that such “free-but-limited” programs can increase adoption by “smoothing” Internet consumption over time, and we present econometric evidence of “connectivity insurance,” keeping consumers online during periods of financial distress.
Grabbing the Wheel Early: Moving Forward on Cybersecurity and Privacy Protections for Driverless Cars
By Chasel Lee
Since the arrival of driverless cars in our collective consciousness in late 2010, there has been a rush to gawk at, to understand, and to grapple with this new phenomenon. From the beginning, concerns were raised about various issues, ranging from public safety to robot overlords. However, two problems, particularly cybersecurity and privacy, became salient in the public mind but defied easy resolution. There was little precedent in other forms of technology in protecting these now-important interests, but the glacial pace of lawmaking made addressing these two issues much more difficult.
This Note proposes a viable framework by which these concerns can be addressed. Through the creation of a federal regulatory regime and consortium of federal agencies, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation, cybersecurity and privacy concerns arising from the driverless car revolution can be addressed uniformly throughout the United States, leaving private industry and innovators with the predictability and stability they need to propel this new technology forward. New and robust cybersecurity and privacy regulations, crafted with input from the private sector, will give consumers the assurance and confidence they need to move this next step of progress forward.
By Stephen Klein
To mitigate major natural and human-induced disasters, Congress established the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which was directed to create a nationwide broadband network dedicated to first responders. The network will allow interconnectivity between different first responders and will provide reliable service in the event of an emergency.
One of FirstNet’s goals is to provide more reliable wireless access for rural first responders who have traditionally suffered from inconsistent communications capabilities. If the network is properly constructed, it would allow for more effective responses to disasters, especially ecological, that may occur in rural areas.
The development of wireless coverage has shown that national commercial wireless providers deprioritized rural areas. FirstNet needs to ensure that in a final plan, they have the capacity to ensure that rural infrastructure is given a sufficient level of attention to prevent the added risks that come with the inadequate infrastructure currently available to rural first responders.
Bridging Open Markets in the “Big Bandwidth” Era: A Blueprint for Foreign Broadband Internet Deployment
By Qiusi Yang
In the basic telecommunications services sector, granting a monopoly share of a service market to a domestic supplier is a common practice that has been challenged for its inconsistency with the goal of market liberalization as contemplated by the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The United States recently announced its “Global Connect” initiative, an attempt to bring about regulatory, technological, and economic changes to challenge Internet infrastructure market access that is historically insulated from foreign competition. Bearing in mind the United States’ telecommunications commitments under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) agreements on basic telecommunications as well as past regulations and practices of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), this Note will explore possible options in negotiating bilateral agreements with foreign countries that will maximize market access for United States basic telecommunications service providers on reciprocal terms. This Note will focus on two core provisions in proposing such an agreement: market access and competitive safeguards. This Note will also emphasize how the FCC, with its expertise in managing regulatory conflicts, can utilize host countries’ WTO commitments and obligations to pave the way for U.S. providers’ investments.