The FCC is in the process of devising a National Broadband Strategy – something you should care about if you believe (as we do) that high-speed Internet is essential to increasing the productivity of the American economy. The commissioners’ focus is thus commendable. But we’re not enamored with the way they’re going about it.
Now, it happens that the report’s conclusions are out of synch with our own views [Download Here] as well as those of many other economists. For example, Bronwyn Howell, the head of the New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation and a noted authority on broadband, concluded [Download Here] that the “literature surveyed [by Benkler] is highly selective,” and that “negligible attention is given to the relative benefits of cross-platform competition versus access regulation…”
But we raise a different issue here: When should the government commission independent reports? In our opinion, only when the government lacks adequate in-house expertise. And, if the expertise is indeed lacking, only when outsiders are likely to improve the government’s decision-making process.
Neither of these conditions was apparently met in this case. The FCC staff (not to mention staff at other federal agencies) has been working on the issue for years. Besides, a simple call for comments would have allowed Professor Benkler and econotypes like us to fire away.