Category Archives: Research Papers

Valuing Spectrum Allocations


Thomas W. Hazlett, Clemson University
Michael Honig, Northwestern University


Observing trends in which Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have become widely popular, some argue that unlicensed allocations hosting such wireless technologies are increasingly valuable and that administrative spectrum allocations should shift accordingly. We challenge that policy conclusion. A core issue is that the social value of a given spectrum allocation is widely assumed to equal the gains of the applications it is likely to host. This thinking is faulty, as vividly seen in what we deem the Broadcast TV Spectrum Valuation Fallacy – the idea that because wireless video, or broadcast network programs are popular, TV channels are efficiently defined. This approach has been appropriately rejected, in key instances, by spectrum regulators, but is similarly applied in other instances regarding unlicensed allocations. While traditional allocations have garnered widespread criticism for imposing rigid barriers tending to block innovation, and flexible-use spectrum access rights have gained favor, the regulatory methods used to allocate (or reallocate) bandwidth remain embedded in a “command and control” process. Reconfiguring spectrum usage to enable emerging wireless markets often requires lengthy, costly rule makings. The expense of this administrative overhead is generally omitted from spectrum allocation policy analysis. Yet, it constitutes an essential component of the consumer welfare analysis. We propose a more fulsome policy approach, one that includes not only the appropriate measures of marginal value and opportunity cost for rival allocations, but incorporates transaction costs. Instead of regulators attempting to guess how much bandwidth should be allocated to various types of licensed and unlicensed services – and imposing different rules within and across these allocations – a more generic approach is called for. By better enabling spontaneous adjustments to changing consumer demands and technological innovation, spectrum allocations can be more efficiently brought into their most valuable employments.

Understanding the Disruptive Innovation Wrought by Computers and the Internet: A Review


Thomas Hazlett recently reviewed two new volumes on the Information Economy for the International Journal of Economics of Business.  Both Martin Campbell-Kelly and Daniel D. Garcia-Swartz, From mainframes to smartphones: A history of the international computer industry (Harvard University Press, 2015), and Shane Greenstein, How the Internet became commercial: Innovation, privatization, and the birth of a new network (Princeton University Press, 2015), offer important histories — and abundant insights — into today’s tech economy.
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Search Engine Optimization: What Drives Organic Traffic to Retail Sites?

(Dr. Babur De Los Santos with Michael R. Baye and Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, Journal of Economics &

Management Strategy, forthcoming)


The lion’s share of retail traffic through search engines originates from organic (natural) rather than sponsored (paid) links. We use a dataset constructed from over 12,000 search terms and 2 million users to identify drivers of the organic clicks that the top 759 retailers received from search engines in August 2012. Our results are potentially important for search engine optimization (SEO). We find that a retailer’s investments in factors such as the quality and brand awareness of its site increases organic clicks through both a direct and an indirect effect. The direct effectstems purely from consumer behavior: The greater the brand equity of an online retailer, the greater the number of consumers who click its link rather than a competitor in the list of organic results. The indirect effect stems from our finding that search engines tend to place better-branded sites in better positions, which results in additional clicks since consumers tend to click links in more favorable positions. We also find that consumers who are older, wealthier, conduct searches from work, use fewer words or include a brand name product in their search are more likely to click a retailer’s organic link following a product search. Finally, the brand equity of a retail site appears to be especially important in attracting organic traffic from individuals with higher incomes. The beneficial direct and indirect effects of an online retailer’s brand equity on organic clicks, coupled with the spillover effects on traffic through other online and traditional channels, leads us to conclude that investments in the quality and brand awareness of a site should be included as part of an SEO strategy.

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