April 20, 2014

Maximum Entropy: The Blog

Washington liabilities vs. Internet assets

March 15th, 2010

See our RealClearMarkets commentary contrasting mounting Washington liabilities versus America’s key strategic assets. We also outline a new Internet paradigm for cloud-based video and software streaming that will create new digital content models, boost Web traffic, and require an ever more broadband Internet.

the graphics chip revolution will have a deep impact on the network. High-definition video requires big bandwidth, and real-time applications tolerate very little delay. UC-San Diego estimates that 55% of total American information consumption, or 1,991 exabytes per year, is (brace yourself) video games. If just 10% of these games moved online, they would generate twice the worldwide Internet traffic of 2008. Video is not always the most important content on the Web, but it defines the architecture and capacity of (and often pays for) the networks, data centers, and software that make all the Web’s wonders possible.

Read the whole article »

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Collective vs. Creative: The Yin and Yang of Innovation

January 13th, 2010

yin-yang-innovation-table-1Later this week the FCC will accept the first round of comments in its “Open Internet” rule making, commonly known as Net Neutrality. Never mind that the Internet is already open and it was never strictly neutral. Openness and neutrality are two appealing buzzwords that serve as the basis for potentially far reaching new regulation of our most dynamic economic and cultural sector — the Internet.

I’ll comment on Net Neutrality from several angles over the coming days. But a terrific essay by Berkeley’s Jaron Lanier impelled me to begin by summarizing some of the big meta-arguments that have been swirling the last few years and which now broadly define the opposing sides in the Net Neutrality debate. See the first in a new series of posts on Internet innovation and possible Net Neutrality regulations »

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Neutrality for thee, but not for me

October 4th, 2009

In Monday’s Wall Street Journal, I address the once-again raging topic of “net neutrality” regulation of the Web. On September 21, new FCC chair Julius Genachowski proposed more formal neutrality regulations. Then on September 25, AT&T accused Google of violating the very neutrality rules the search company has sought for others. The gist of the complaint was that the new Google Voice service does not connect all phone calls the way other phone companies are required to do. Not an earthshaking matter in itself, but a good example of the perils of neutrality regulation. Continue reading this entry »

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Leviathan Spam

September 23rd, 2009

Leviathan Spam

Send the bits with lasers and chips
See the bytes with LED lights

Wireless, optical, bandwidth boom
A flood of info, a global zoom

Now comes Lessig
Now comes Wu
To tell us what we cannot do

The Net, they say,
Is under attack
Stop!
Before we can’t turn back

They know best
These coder kings
So they prohibit a billion things

What is on their list of don’ts?
Most everything we need the most

To make the Web work
We parse and label
We tag the bits to keep the Net stable

The cloud is not magic
It’s routers and switches
It takes a machine to move exadigits

Now Lessig tells us to route is illegal
To manage Net traffic, Wu’s ultimate evil
Read the rest of this entry »

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A New Leash on the Net?

September 21st, 2009

Today, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski proposed new regulations on communications networks. We were among the very first opponents of these so-called “net neutrality” rules when they were first proposed in concept back in 2004. Here are a number of our relevant articles over the past few years:

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Political Noise On the Net

September 17th, 2009

With an agreement between the U.S. Department of Commerce and ICANN (the nonprofit Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, headquartered in California) expiring on September 30, global bureaucrats salivate. As I write today in Forbes, they like to criticize ICANN leadership — hoping to gain political control — but too often ignore the huge success of the private-sector-led system.

How has the world fared under the existing model?

In the 10 years of the Commerce-ICANN relationship, Web users around the globe have grown from 300 million to almost 2 billion. World Internet traffic blossomed from around 10 million gigabytes per month to almost 10billion, a near 1,000-fold leap. As the world economy grew by approximately 50%, Internet traffic grew by 100,000%. Under this decade of private sector leadership, moreover, the number of Internet users in North America grew around 150% while the number of users in the rest of the world grew almost 600%. World growth outpaced U.S. growth.

Can we really digest this historic shift? In this brief period, the portion of the globe’s population that communicates electronically will go from negligible to almost total. From a time when even the elite accessed relative spoonfuls of content, to a time in the near future when the masses will access all recorded information.

These advances do not manifest a crisis of Internet governance.

As for a real crisis? See what happens when politicians take the Internet away from the engineers who, in a necessarily cooperative fashion, make the whole thing work. Criticism of mild U.S. government oversight of ICANN is hardly reason to invite micromanagement by an additional 190 governments.

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Innovation Yin and Yang

August 20th, 2009

There are two key mistakes in the public policy arena that we don’t talk enough about. They are two apparently opposite sides of the same fallacious coin.

Call the first fallacy “innovation blindness.” In this case, policy makers can’t see the way new technologies or ideas might affect, say, the future cost of health care, or the environment. The result is a narrow focus on today’s problems rather than tomorrow’s opportunities. The orientation toward the problem often exacerbates it by closing off innovations that could transcend the issue altogether.

The second fallacy is “innovation assumption.” Here, the mistake is taking innovation for granted. Assume the new technology will come along even if we block experimentation. Assume the entrepreneur will start the new business, build the new facility, launch the new product, or hire new people even if we make it impossibly expensive or risky for her to do so. Assume the other guy’s business is a utility while you are the one innovating, so he should give you his product at cost — or for free — while you need profits to reinvest and grow.

Reversing these two mistakes yields the more fruitful path. We should base policy on the likely scenario of future innovation and growth. But then we have to actually allow and encourage the innovation to occur.

All this sprung to mind as I read Andy Kessler’s article, “Why AT&T Killed Google Voice.” For one thing, Google Voice isn’t dead . . . but let’s start at the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »

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Romer’s transformative “Charter Cities”

August 14th, 2009

Stanford economist Paul Romer has had lots of good ideas over the years. Particularly his ideas about the importance of ideas in the economy. But his “Charter City” idea explored at the recent TED conference is one of the best yet.

Maybe I like it so much because it so closely tracks the concepts offered in my long paper of last August called “Entrepreneurship and Innovation in China – 1978-2008 – Thirty Years of Decentralized Economic Growth”, a follow-on article in The Wall Street Journal, and a previous essay “Breaking Metcalfe’s Law” on the economic importance of the exchange of ideas.

Romer uses China’s “free zones” envisioned by Deng Xiaoping and initially implemented by one Jiang Zemin as the chief example of how his charter cities would work in practice. He explains how they might cut the political-economic Gordian knot of societies too stuck in the past to make obviously needed rule changes that can open the floodgates of ideas and entrepreneurship. These were the key themes of my paper.

Also check out this working paper by Romer that surveys the economic growth literature (hat tip: Growthology).

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Doom? Or Boom?

July 28th, 2009

Do we really understand just how fast technology advances over time? And the magnitude of price changes and innovations it yields?

Especially in the realm of public policy, we often obsess over today’s seemingly intractable problems without realizing that technology and economic growth often show us a way out.

In several recent presentations in Atlanta and Seattle, I’ve sought to measure the growth of a key technological input — consumer bandwidth — and to show how the pace of technological change in other arenas is likely to continue remaking our world for the better . . . if we let it.

Bandwidth Boom – NARUC Seattle – Bret Swanson – 07.22.09

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Biting the handsets that connect the world

July 7th, 2009

Over the July 4 weekend, relatives and friends kept asking me: Which mobile phone should I buy? There are so many choices.

I told them I love my iPhone, but all kinds of new devices from BlackBerries and Samsungs to Palm’s new Pre make strong showings, and the less well-known HTC, one of the biggest innovators of the last couple years, is churning out cool phones across the price-point and capability spectrum. Several days before, on Wednesday, July 1, I had made a mid-afternoon stop at the local Apple store. It was packed. A short line formed at the entrance where a salesperson was taking names on a clipboard. After 15 minutes of browsing, it was my turn to talk to a salesman, and I asked: “Why is the store so crowded? Some special event?”

“Nope,” he answered. “This is pretty normal for a Wednesday afternoon, especially since the iPhone 3G S release.” Read the rest of this entry »

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