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Avoiding a Tragedy of the Telecommons: Finding the Right Property Rights Regime for Telecommunications

Monday May 2004

In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act deregulating local phone service. It hoped that scrapping the older system of regulation would be conducive to encouraging competition and rapid technological innovation in the telecommunications industry. Eight years later, however, the telecommunications industry is hamstrung by extensive litigation between incumbents and competitors, declining investment rates, and sporadic efforts to deliver high-speed internet access to businesses and consumers. The consequences have been dramatic: since 2000, telecommunications service providers and equipment manufacturers have lost several hundred thousand jobs, over $1 trillion in market capitalization, and have seen their infrastructure investments decline by over $70 billion a year.

What went wrong? How do current FCC regulations fit into existing legal and economic analysis of property rights and ownership incentives? What more can the FCC do to encourage competition?


8:30 AM - 9:00 AM Registration
9:00 AM - 9:15 AM Introductory Remarks
Kevin Martin, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
9:15 AM -10:30 AM Panel I: Fitting Telecommunications Regulation into the Property Law Paradigm
Moderator: Drew Clark, Senior Writer, National Journal’s Technology Daily
Richard Epstein, Professor, University of Chicago Law School
Henry Smith, Professor, Yale University Law School
Eric Claeys, Professor, St. Louis University Law School
Panel Respondent: Matt Brill, Senior Legal Advisor to FCC Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy
10:40 AM - 11:55 AM Panel II: TELRIC and UNE: How are Regulatory Incentives Affecting Competition and Investment?
Moderator: Tim Ferguson, Editor, Forbes Global
Thomas Hazlett, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
Michael Heller, Professor, Columbia University Law School
Respondent: Jay Lefkowitz, Former Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy; Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
12:00 NOON - 12:30 PM Reception
12:30 PM - 1:00 PM Luncheon
Kathleen Abernathy, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission