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Brookings Panel on “Fostering Internet Competition”

BY Heather Greenfield
October 12, 2012

Brookings Panel on “Fostering Internet Competition “The Brookings Institute held a panel discussionWednesday on “Fostering Internet Competition” to highlight a new Brookings paper “How to Maintain a Competitive Internet.” Darrell West, who moderated the discussion, wrote that by 2016 analysts estimate the digital economy will amount to $4.2 trillion among G-20 nations – nearly double the $2.3 trillion for 2010.

The paper and panelists Susan Crawford, Spencer Waller and Douglas Rushkoff said that robust competition policy is vital to the continuing economic benefits of the Internet. They said consumers benefit from competition and transparent, non-discriminatory market behavior and it helps economies gain the full benefits of the Internet. The discussion covered everything from past antitrust actions against AT&T and Microsoft, which they praised, to broadband deployment and competition to the danger of patent trolls.

Waller, who directs the Institute for Antitrust Studies at the Chicago School of Law, said the Internet needs nondiscriminatory access – “not free, just open.”

Crawford, a professor at Cardozo Law School, said she just could not agree with an audience member that there is competition now among wireless Internet providers, saying AT&T and Verizon were not under pressure to improve service because of their dominance. “That’s why T-Mobile and MetroPCS are proposing to merge – just to keep up,” she said.

Rushkoff, a technology and media commentator for CNN, commented on the cost of patent trolls on innovation. He said he shuddered to think what it would have been like in the early days of developing the English language if someone appeared, claiming to have the patent for vowels.

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