July 2013

Jerry Ellig on the Universal Service Fund

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Jerry Ellig, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, discusses the the FCC’s lifeline assistance benefit funded through the Universal Service Fund (USF). The program, created in 1997, subsidizes phone services for low-income households. The USF is not funded through the federal budget, rather via a fee from monthly phone bills — reaching an all-time high of 17% of telecomm companies’ revenues last year. Ellig discusses the similarities between the USF fee and a tax, how the fee fluctuates, how subsidies to the telecomm industry have boomed in recent years, and how to curb the waste, fraud and abuse that comes as a result of the lifeline assistance benefit.

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Jane Bambauer on whether data is speech

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Jane Yakowitz Bambauer, associate professor of law at the University of Arizona, discusses her forthcoming paper in the Stanford Law Review titled “Is Data Speech?” How do we define “data” and can it be protected in the same way as free speech? She examines current privacy laws and regulations as they pertain to data creation and collection, including whether collecting data should be protected under the First Amendment.

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K. Eric Drexler on the future of nanotechnology

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K. Eric Drexler of Oxford University discusses his latest book Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization. Drexler, who has ,been referred to as “the founding father of nanotechnology” covers how society can conserve resources and make more efficient products through nanotechnology; how nanotechnology can solve some of the world’s most pressing problems; how this varies from what you’ve seen in science fiction; and, how we can improve manufacturing at the molecular level.

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Adam Thierer on cronyism

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Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center discusses his recent working paper with coauthor Brent Skorup, “A History of Cronyism and Capture in the Information Technology Sector.” Thierer takes a look at how cronyism has manifested itself in technology and media markets — whether it be in the form of regulatory favoritism or tax privileges. Which tech companies are the worst offenders? What are the consequences for consumers? And, how does cronyism affect entrepreneurship over the long term?

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Patrick Ruffini on the defeat of SOPA

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Patrick Ruffini, political strategist, author, and President of Engage, a digital agency in Washington, DC, discusses his latest book with coauthors David Segal and David Moon:
Hacking Politics: How Geeks, Progressives, the Tea Party, Gamers, Anarchists, and Suits Teamed Up to Defeat SOPA and Save the Internet. Ruffini covers the history behind SOPA, its implications for Internet freedom, the “Internet blackout” in January of 2012, and how the threat of SOPA united activists, technology companies, and the broader Internet community.

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