Monday, February 28, 2011

Call for Papers: International Workshop In Law And Economics Of Media And Telecommunications

International Workshop In Law And Economics Of Media And Telecommunications

June 20-21, 2011

Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC), Tilburg, the Netherlands

www.tilburguniversity.edu/research/institutes-and-research-groups/tilec/events/20-21june2011

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Tilburg Law and Economics Center (Tilec) organizes a workshop on the law and economics of media and telecommunications to take place in Tilburg (The Netherlands) on June 20,21, 2011. Tilec aims at bringing together a diverse spectrum of scholars and regulators of media and telecommunications, both from the US and from Europe to discuss what the most pressing issues in the regulation of media and telecommunications.

Confirmed keynote speakers include: Stefan Bechtold (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich); Matthew Gentzkow (University of Chicago); Benjamin Hermalin (University of California, Berkeley); James Speta (Northwestern University)

We welcome economic and legal contributions of the highest quality, but require effort in presenting before a mixed audience. Economists are expected to bring in reasons to regulate/not regulate/how to regulate according to economic theory, lawyers to bring in knowledge of the current regulation, of court decisions and of the legal feasibility of regulation proposals. Each presenter will be assigned a discussant. Theoretical, empirical and policy-oriented articles are welcome. A non-exhaustive list of topics of interest is:

- The impact of convergence and digitalization
- Network neutrality
- Cloud computing
- Local content in digital markets
- Scope for public ownership in old and new media
- Financing of public service broadcasting
- News quality in online media markets
- Pricing of news and information in digital markets
- Media markets structure and political outcomes
- Mergers and local content
- Mergers and pluralism
- Advertising regulation in the old and new media
- Intellectual property rights and piracy in the digital era
- Exclusive contracts
- Vertical integration in telecommunications and media
- Bundling in new and traditional media markets

Submissions

The deadline for submission is April 10, 2011. Articles should be submitted in PDF to tilec-media[at]uvt.nl . Extended abstract are accepted but full papers are preferred. Please contact the workshop organizers for any questions. Authors of selected papers will be notified by April 20, 2011 on the basis of the recommendations of a scientific committee. TILEC will cover the accommodation and reasonable travel expenses of conference participants who present an accepted paper. Presenters might be asked to be discussant of another presenter’s paper.

Registration

Registration is by invitation only, as capacity is limited. Requests for invitations can be submitted from April 26, 2010 onwards through tilec-media[at]uvt.nl. Attendance will be free of charge.

Program Committee

Lapo Filistrucchi (Tilburg University, University of Florence)
Lisa George (CUNY, Hunter College)
Pierre Larouche (Tilburg University)
Massimo Motta (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
Jasper Sluijs (Tilburg University)
Eric van Damme (Tilburg University)
Nico van Eijk (Amsterdam University)

Kevin Werbach (University of Pennsylvania)

Organizers:

Lapo Filistrucchi (Tilburg University, University of Florence) L.filistrucchi[at]uvt.nl
Jasper Sluijs (Tilburg University) jasper.sluijs[at]uvt.nl

Italian net neutrality consultation lists prior art

See here: "VISTO il “Questionnaire for the public consultation on the open internet and net neutrality in Europe”,  pubblicato il 30 giugno 2010 dalla Commissione europea Information Society and Media Directorate-General, Electronic Communications Policy,  nonché i documenti in materia pubblicati da altre autorità nazionali di
regolamentazione tra i quali si menzionano:
a) Federal Communication Commission (FCC), “Report and order” n. 10-201 del 21 dicembre 2010 concernente le modalità disponibili al fine di preservare la natura aperta e libera della rete;
b) ARCEP,  “Neutralité de l’internet et des réseaux: propositions et orientations”, settembre 2010;
c) BEREC  “Response to the European Commission’s consultation on the open Internet and net neutrality in Europe”, 30 settembre 2010;
d) OFCOM, “Traffic management and ‘net neutrality’.  A discussion document”, 24 giugno 2010;
e) Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) “Review of the internet traffic management practices of internet service providers”, ottobre 2009;
f) PTS Swedish Post and Telecom Agency, “Open Networks and Services”, novembre 2009;
g) NPT Norwegian Post and Telecommunications Authority, “Network neutrality – Guidelines for internet neutrality”, febbraio 2009."

Forthcoming attractions: Hungarian EU Presidency broadband conference 3 March

Its gone a bit quiet here because I am finalising my EuroCPR paper (Ghent 29 March) on mobile net neutrality, and getting ready to fly to Budapest to help the Presidency by moderating the conference and chipping in at the press conference.

Broadband Britain or High Speed Rail

The UK government is consulting on its plans to spend £33,000,000,000 on a new high speed railway from London to Birmingham and onward to Manchester. That's a 10,000% increase on its infrastructure spend for fibre optic broadband.
Just thought we might consider the demand implications of one over the other.
That is all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mobile net neutrality: some thoughts

As Neelie Kroes explains that roaming competition has proved a total failure, and that retail price regulation may be the only medium-term solution, its worth contemplating the nature of what she describes as no " justification for the current rip-offs". That issue is intimately entangled with the usage-based billing controversy I have previously described. An interesting tweet from Tomoaki Watanabe at GLOCOM (where I am a Fellow) describes how a 30 GIGABYTE UPLOAD limit PER DAY is now being imposed in Japan...good grief, Europe is behind on fibre, as another Kroes' speech gently suggests.
As Neelie points out, things have improved and now its just "less than 5 cents for downloading a MB of data at home, but this may turn into 2.60 Euro per MB when the same consumer crosses an invisible border!" In fact, I pay £7.68 for 5GB at home, which is just 1.5cents. But roaming - well, just don't switch your phone on...
So back to that 1.5cents per day - with 5GB ceiling - and I must at this point explain that as a constant complainer and researcher, i think I have the best deal available in Europe.
Well, Europe is lagging hopelessly behind competitors on mobile, with Symbian and Ericsson's near-deaths and Nokia's perhaps terminal nosedive on smartphones, we may be commoditised according to Mobile Megatrends (thanks to Gunnar Bender for the link). Neelie rather wonderfully described it as phones from the Far East and content from the Far West squeezing old Europe.
Europe is all dongled up as far as it will go, and we are now getting Smartphoned to match the more civilized parts of the world - and notably smartphones now ship more than computers - and cost more. Allegedly and ludicrously, market research claims we want to pay more for real broadband speeds. That would make mobile unique amongst IT products, it appears tenuous, even Mubarak-like to even say such a thing.
Mobile has tried to keep inside its little bubble in Europe, but Nokia's CEO has popped that complacency, smartphones have shattered it, and we are living in a new world - consumers expect convergence to produce faster speeds, lower prices and Moore's Law improvements in handsets. We make low-end handsets, outmoded OS, ludicrous roaming charges and expensive low-speed mobile networks. The emperor's clothes are translucent at best.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bill St Arnaud precises Andrew Odlyzko on Usage-based billing

UBB is currently a huge hot potato in the Canadian net neutrality debate (Michael Geist sums it up wonderfully here) - rationing appeals to Bell but not its wholesale customers. Bill St Arnaud quotes from Andrew's work, as I did in Net Neutrality - the Book: “While the simple utility maximization argument might favor per-user pricing in a substantial fraction of cases, what we observe in the market are repeated failures of à la carte pricing….The flat-rate Internet access plan may not be viable, since there are substantial marginal costs in providing such services, but the strong consumer preference that has forced even America Online to switch to fixed-fee pricing has to be taken into account. [… This preference.. appears to be a major factor that will favor fixed-fee schemes, at least for individual consumers. "
St Arnaud states that UBB "puts the consumer at a serious disadvantage with respect to the incumbent operators for two primary reasons:
(a)  With universal UBB it is almost impossible for consumers to do comparative shopping for the best Internet service plan. [Consider mobile billing plans] Consumers don’t have the information resources or skills to decipher which plan makes the most sense. It is unfortunate, due to regulatory capture that telecom/broadcast regulators do little to protect the consumer in terms of promoting competition or mandating simple and understandable pricing plans. What we see happen in the cell phone industry will most likely happen in the Internet if regulators allow universal UBB.
(b) Fixed price plans are like insurance. Even though consumers know they may never use their maximum bandwidth, it provides them with the peace of mind that... there will be no surprises or surcharges."
More Odlyzko academic papers: Fixed fee versus unit pricing for information goods: competition, equilibria, and price wars First Monday1997,  Internet pricing and the history of communications Computer Networks 36 (2001), pp. 493-517,  Too expensive to meter: The influence of transaction costs in transportation and communication, with David Levinson, in Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A, vol. 366, no.872, 2008, pp. 2033-2046.
See also St Arnaud himself, 2008  Internet Evolution, Threats to the Internet: Too much or too little growth?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tim Wu joins Federal Trade Commission

Hmmm, now net neutrality cynics will appreciate that Tim is actually in favour of transparent, competitive free markets, as FTC makes him: a senior adviser for consumer protection and competition issues that affect the Internet and mobile phones. His job will be to assist the agency with “long-range competition and consumer protection policy initiatives,” the release said. It also said he would advise government employees on new legal cases associated with the Internet. The F.T.C. chairman, Jon Leibowitz, said in a statement on Tuesday that Mr. Wu’s work with the agency would span the “nexus of consumer protection, competition, law and technology.”

Friday, February 04, 2011

Canadian caps and consumer rebellion

Previously on the blog, I indicated that the much-vaunted CRTC net neutrality rules may not be worth the paper they are written on. Today, with clear indications that government will over-turn its  light-touch policy, the CRTC chair will be 'grilled' (as tabloid-speak has it) in front of a Parliamentary committee concerned at plans to cap wholesale data delivery to independent ISPs, and will: "reiterate the Commission's view that usage-based billing is a legitimate principle for pricing Internet services. We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities, and the vast majority of Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users. For us, it is a question of fundamental fairness. Let me restate: ordinary users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users."
Its worth checking the Bell Canada usage based billing for its own retail customers, which is much more sophisticated and transparent than anything fixed ISPs provide in the UK, more like a mobile service. For instance, I have 797MB left in my monthly 3 allowance. (By contrast, Virgin Media's cable service brags about high speed but offers 11 hours of throttling per day in the ultra-small print.) Bell also states that "Customers may experience extended download and upload times when using P2P file sharing applications during the daily scheduled traffic management period which is currently scheduled from 4:30 pm to 2:00 am EST for Bell Internet DSL...P2P file-sharing usage are gradually decreased at the beginning of the peak period (from full speed down to 512 kbps at 4:30 p.m. and then down to 256 kbps at 6:00 p.m.) and then gradually increased towards the end of the peak period (up from 256 kbps to 512 kbps at 1:00 a.m. and then up to full speed at 2:00 a.m.)."
Does such a tool help transparency and traffic management? Yes. Does it indicate a real link between increasing Mb/s speed and the total download limit? No, and here may be the Canadian problem. Consider a rule that capping must increase at the same speed as advertised download speeds, at a ratio of 10Mb/s should provision 20GB/month downloading. Therefore 50Mb/s would have minimum 100GB provisioning and so on. In this way, CRTC would achieve its stated aims: 
"1. When congestion occurs, an ISP's first response should always be to invest in more network capacity. In a competitive marketplace where consumers have choice, it is in the ISP's best interests to have a robust network.
2. Realizing that network upgrades are not always the most practical solution, we indicated that if it is necessary to manage Internet traffic, it should be done through transparent, economic means.
 3. Traffic shaping and other technical means should only be employed as a measure of last resort, and in which case customers should be made aware of them ahead of time."