We were repeatedly struck by the paucity of data relating to the economic characteristics and performance of the telecommunications industry. The field of telecommunications has thus far not generated anything like the amount of serious policy research that its importance justifies.
Effective policy making, both by business and by government, could profit from the sustained study and critical analysis of well-informed scholarship. We therefore urge governmental, foundation, and business support for increased inter-disciplinary research and training in telecommunications policy.
To ensure that the government is exposed to a steady flow of independent, critical, and creative ideas, we believe that an institute and preferably more than one institute, for communication policy training and research should be developed outside the government. Such institutes should undertake the advanced interdisciplinary training of communications experts–economists, lawyers, engineers, management experts, social scientists and others–to deal with problems of communications policy which transcend the confines of any single discipline.
These sentiments were expressed in 1968 by Eugene V. Rostow, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, in an report to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Yet, Rostow’s observation of a “paucity” of independent research on telecommunications policy still rings true today. The Information Economy Project’s mission is to answer Rostow’s call for empirically-driven law and economics analysis of the telecommunications sector.
Where Law & Economics Meets Telecommunications Policy
Public policy in the Information Economy is central to the health of the global economy, invokes fundamental free speech issues, and determines how our basic social and economic institutions are shaped. A fundamental debate about the nature of the Internet has much broader implications for law and economics: Will information technology drive an economic realignment to a post-capitalist “commons,” or are today’s disruptive technologies an example of the market’s ability to harness creative destruction through property rights?
A Commitment to Law & Economics Scholarship
A young economist from Beijing contacted George Mason University in June 2006. Zhong Liu, then a Ph.D. candidate at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University, wanted to conduct telecommunications policy research at a leading academic institution. Through the Information Economy Project, Dr. Zhong received a post-doctoral fellowship in 2006-2007, evaluating the bundling of handsets and wireless telephone service. Some assert that carrier phone subsidies limit consumer choices. Dr. Zhong’s research compared prices and usage across mobile markets, finding performance metrics relatively depressed where bundling was prohibited. Such empirical evaluation, injecting marketplace evidence into global public policy debates, is what IEP aims to promote.
A World-Class Policy Research Institution
Created in 2005 with support from the George Mason University Foundation and Law School, the Information Economy Project is growing its expertise. Today it looks forward to expanding its programs to tackle an ever-wider array of public policy issues. Public policy in the Information Economy is central to the health of the global economy, can limit or expand free speech, and determines how our basic social and economic institutions are shaped. IEP brings academic rigor to issues of vast social significance.
Generating Big Ideas and Wide-Ranging Output
The work of the Information Economy Project sits at the intersection of academic research and public policy. The IEP conferences and lectures tap prominent thinkers in business, law, and government. Its research enterprise assists established experts and promising young scholars who are analyzing the most challenging regulatory questions of our day. In addition to publishing studies in leading law reviews, economics journals, and policy forums, IEP reaches beyond academic audiences, placing provocative essays in popular outlets as Barron’s, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal.