Cell phone ownership in Africa has ballooned over the last decade, bringing the benefits of the Internet to developing populations. In particular, mobile finances have taken off in places like Kenya, where the heavily-regulated banking system had long failed to serve entrepreneurs and low-income customers. What makes Kenya such an attractive place for mobile money? Could other countries benefit from adopting this approach? Scott Burns, Mercatus PhD Dissertation Fellow, joins the show to discuss. For more info, see Scott’s post on Alt-M.
“Driverless cars” is a hot topic this year, especially as self-driving Ubers hit the roads in Pittsburgh. This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put out guidelines for autonomous vehicles, including performance standards, model state policy, and regulatory tools for future innovations. What impact with the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy have? Is it premature to regulate driverless cars at this early stage — before they’ve even hit the road en masse? Evan is joined by Marc Scribner, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. They discuss the Feds’ policy on driverless cars, what it gets right, what it gets wrong, and what the driverless future will look like. For more, see Scribner’s article.
We know from the Snowden leaks that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are watching us. But who watches the watchers? Congress is responsible for overseeing intelligence practices, but is it doing its job effectively? A growing number of experts thinks not. What can be done to strengthen oversight and protect journalists and whistleblowers? Nathan Leamer, Outreach Manager at the R Street Institute, and Daniel Schuman, Policy Director at Demand Progress, join the show to discuss. For more, see their report.
Is the FCC an “economics-free zone?” The agency routinely issues regulations that will have a major impact on businesses and consumers. But does the Commission truly weigh the trade-offs — the costs and benefits of its policies? Not nearly enough, says Hal Singer, Senior Fellow at the GW Institute for Public Policy. In an op-ed for the Hill, he charges that this FCC in particular is more preoccupied with politics than economics. What does it mean to be “economics-free?” What can the agency do differently. Evan and Hal discuss.
Have you ever been wronged by a website? Have you ever wanted to sue it? Before you rush to hire a lawyer, you may wanna check up on federal law first. Back in 1996, Congress didn’t know much about the Internet. But Republicans and Democrats did at least understand that it was important, and that too many lawsuits against websites could mess it up for everyone. That’s why Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of the law shields websites from liability for the content that users to the platforms. It’s arguably what led to the development of Facebook, YouTube and other user-generated platforms. So what’s the problem? Is Section 230 under attack? Are the courts paving the way for more website lawsuits? Cathy Gellis, a cyber lawyer and tech policy expert, joins the show to discuss.
You’re probably familiar with Uber and ride-sharing. But do you ever wonder why there isn’t something similar for air travel? A plane-sharing app? There was one, actually, but the Federal Aviation Administration shut it down. In December of 2015, the FAA banned flight-sharing, a ruling that forced the startup Flytenow to shut down its platform. Flytenow allowed private pilots to share the cost of flying with passengers going to the same destination by connecting them online. The company has sued the FAA to overturn the ruling, and TechFreedom and the Cato institute filed a brief in support of Flytenow. Evan and Berin discuss.
Today’s media landscape looks nothing like the 1970s. Back then, newspapers, radio, and television were the only games in town. But despite such insignificant developments like Internet news and massive layoffs in traditional print media, FCC rules haven’t kept up with the times. Last month, the FCC voted to retain nearly all rules preventing the cross-ownership of newspapers, broadcast TV stations and radio stations in the same market. Evidence suggests that cross-ownership could help save the struggling print news industry by allowing local media to pool their resources and share newsrooms. Why is the FCC stuck in the past? How will these rules affect diversity in media? Matthew Berry, Chief of Staff for FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, joins the show to discuss. For more, read Commissioner Pai’s dissent.
It’s no secret that ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have disrupted the taxi industry. While many cities have embraced the fierce competition, others have simply banned ride-sharing outright. But Massachusetts is taking a novel approach — forcing companies like Uber to subsidize their taxi competitors. A new 20 cent tax on ridesharing trips includes 5 cents that goes directly to the taxi industry. If it sounds unfair, then why are both the companies and Governor Baker (a Republican) supporting it? Should Uber subsidize taxis in other cities as well? What are the downsides? The Manhattan Institute’s Jared Meyer joins the show to discuss. For more, read his article in Forbes.
The wireless industry is gearing up for 5G, the next generation of networks. And don’t let the numbers fool you — 5G speeds are going to be much faster than 4G. But what’s it gonna take to get us from HD streaming to 4K? From augmented to virtual reality? Major obstacles remain in the way. Whether it’s acquiring more spectrum, building small cells, or navigating a web of regulation, carriers face significant hurdles. Can 5G support the “Internet of Things?” What effect will FCC regulations have on deployment? What can government do to help? Peter Rysavy, a wireless technology expert and president of Rysavy Research, joins the show.
When government-run broadband networks in Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC sought to expand beyond their cities’ boundaries, they ran into state restrictions. The cities asked the FCC to intervene, but can a federal regulator overturn state laws on broadband? The agency thought so, but the Court disagreed. This month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s 2015 order preempting state laws and dictating how municipalities make decisions with regard to government-run broadband networks. What does this mean for the future of state broadband policy? Should critics of the FCC be encouraged by the Court’s rebuke. Evan and Berin discuss. For more, see our blog post.