Scott Wallsten

Increasing low-income broadband adoption through private incentives

We evaluate a program by a private Internet Service Provider intended to encourage low-income households to subscribe to broadband internet service.

New Broadband Maps Are Coming. They’ll Be Useless Unless We Also Invest in Research and Analytical Capacity.

New, more accurate and detailed broadband maps are on their way. The telecom policy crowd fervently hopes the data upgrade will help us better address digital divides and other issues. But maps and data alone won’t solve anything. Skill, expertise and time will all be required to study and use the new maps, and the resources required grow as the datasets become larger and more complex.

Senator Markey is on the Right Track to Connect Everyone

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill with real potential to mitigate the digital divide. Most proposals simply call for more money for existing programs or for new programs without evidence they will help. Real-world experience, however, has demonstrated how little we truly understand about why many low-income people do not subscribe. The Markey bill tackles this underlying issue.

Economics, Experts, and Federalism in Mozilla v. FCC

The seemingly interminable wait for the Court’s decision in Mozilla v. FCC is finally at an end. In its 186-page decision, the Court described how it considered economic concepts, arguments, and expert reports. It upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 Order but rejected its claimed preemption authority. As we have learned, the net neutrality debates will never die, but they may now change venue.

Increasing Low-Income Broadband Adoption through Private Incentives

A long-standing public policy goal has been ensuring that almost all citizens are connected to some minimum level of communications services. This paper evaluates Comcast’s “voluntary commitment” to introduce a low-income broadband program that Comcast has branded “Internet Essentials (IE).” We use data from the US Census Current Population Survey (CPS) and the National Broadband Map and a differences-in-differences approach to evaluate the program’s effects on subscription rates for eligible households.

Critiques of 2017 FCC Comment Process Also Apply to 2014

[Analysis] Criticisms of the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom process apply also to the 2014 Open Internet process. A key difference between the comment process in 2017 compared to 2014 is that form letters became more sophisticated and more difficult to identify. In the future, bad actors are likely to continue improving their ability to make form letters appear unique, hide their origins, or simply make the comment process unmanageable.

Net Neutrality and Transparency in the Regulatory Process

[Commentary] Releasing the network neutrality draft order early had some unintended consequences. It created a flurry of activity when everybody with an opinion felt they had to re-litigate their arguments. Far too many chose it as an opportunity to hurl invectives at those with differing opinions, contributing to the downfall of productive debate. Despite the increasing vitriol during the weeks before the vote, releasing the draft order prior to the Federal Communications Commission’s vote is one key to making the FCC regulatory process more transparent.

Public Comments in the World of Massive Multiplayer Regulatory Proceedings

By the time the Federal Communications Commission’s ferociously controversial net neutrality draft Order was released on November 22, 2017, more than 22 million comments were submitted to the FCC through its new application programming interface (API). This avalanche of public input is impossible to navigate and interpret using human labor alone. Machine learning tools are uniquely suited to navigating and interpreting such a large amount of information.

Pai's Tranparency: File This One Under “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission is expected to release its draft Network Neutrality Order on Wednesday, November 22—just before Thanksgiving. This timing has created an uproar among some opponents of the Order, who claim that the timing is merely part of what is admittedly an unfortunately common strategy among governments to release unpopular news when it thinks the public is least likely to see it. In this case, however, the claim has several problems.

Proposed Lifeline Reforms a Mixed Bag, Still Ignore Real Issues

[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai contends his proposed reforms to the Lifeline program will “more effectively and efficiently help close the digital divide by directing Lifeline funds to the areas where they are most needed.” Opponents, however, believe the proposed changes “will gut the program and continue to widen the digital divide.” The likely outcome, if the proposal is enacted as currently written, will be somewhere in between. Some of these proposed reforms are important, positive steps that will improve the Lifeline program’s efficiency.