April 22, 2024

In this podcast, Kurt speaks with Dr. Mark Jamison, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who explains what net neutrality is and what we should think about it.

Listen to “Episode 75: What is Net Neutrality?” on Spreaker.

Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It’s very nice to be with you here today and today is a special day, not because of the hot topic that we have for you, but because I am doing the video livestream all on my own today, and so Chris is off for the weekend. We’ve got Joel subbing in on the soundboard so thank you Joel for coming in.

Joel: No problem.

Kurt: Let me ask you, Joel. You’ve got a newborn in the house.

Joel: That’s right.

Kurt: Little Freddy. How’s he doing?

Joel: He’s doing great. He’s doing great. It’s our second child and it’s a little…

Kurt: Piece of cake.

Joel: Yeah. You already know what’s going on. It’s funny when your three-year-old daughter wakes you up in the morning now and you feel like a zombie and she’s just there. You could practically have a string of orchestral music. You’re like “What?! Oh.”

Kurt: Very nice. Good. I’m very grateful that you are able to come in today and fill in for Chris on the soundboard so thanks for that. We’ve got a few announcements before we get into today’s program. Some of them are very welcome news and so here we have the fundraiser that we’ve been doing. We have a very large update for you. This is a fundraiser that we’ve had for a couple months. Just this week I was able to meet with some donors and they gave a big sign of support for us, giving a large monthly amount. We are now 96% of the way to our goal, so our goal has been $800 per month in new support. Now we’re just on the cusp of finishing, so we would love to get your support, finish this fundraiser, especially before the end of the year. Again, looking for monthly support so if you can chip in $10 or $20 a month to help this program grow, that would be a great blessing.

We also have a voice message from our friend Mark Lester of the Checkmarked Film Reviews and I want to play for you a ninety-second review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi from Mark Lester of Checkmarked Film Reviews.

*clip plays*

Kurt: Alright. So that was our friend Mark Lester and he asked if he could come on the show, and I know he’s called in live before, but I think that given in Chris’s absence with all I was doing, I figured “Hey. Just leave us a quick 90-second review. We’ll air that. Thank you, Mark. We appreciate your chiming in from time to time and I hope that if you’re interested to read about Mark’s reviews, you can go to Checkmarkedfilmreviews.com. 

Okay. Today’s topic is a very hot one. We are talking about what is net neutrality. Joining us on the show today is Dr. Mark Jamison, and he is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute where he works on how technology affects the economy and on how telecommunications and federal communications commission issues. Dr. Jamison. Thank you so much for joining us on the show.

Mark: My pleasure, Kurt.

Kurt: Tell me a little bit your interest in technology and communications and then we’ll get a little bit into the FCC and the drama that’s been unfolding this past week. 

Mark: Okay. I’ve always been a technology junkie. I was one of the first people to try and own a PC which dates me a lot older than you and perhaps a lot of people in your audience. Early on in my career, I was hired by the state of Kansas where I lived to regulate telecommunications companies and so I was able to take that kind of technology junkie perspective and put it into my career. I’ve been able to kind of follow that path and these days I’m very interested in how the tech companies perform, how new startups get started, how the information works, and then of course, all of the issues of competition. I’m an economist by training and I like to think about and study how markets work and where they have issues and then how the government interfaces with all of that. 

Kurt: Yeah. Great. So then you’re in addition to the scholarship that you do for the American Enterprise Institute, you are also the director and Gunter Professor of the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.

Mark: Yes.

Kurt: Now tell me, I’m not all that familiar with where the university, what city is that in again?

Mark: It’s in Gainesville, Florida. It’s a small town. If you know where Disney is or Orlando, we’re about an hour and a half north of there.

Kurt: Gotcha. And those would be the Gators. Is that right?

Mark: That is exactly right.

Kurt: Okay. Right. I just was forgetting where that was. My wife is a Seminole. She graduated from Florida State so I guess a bit of a rivalry there.

Mark: That does happen, although we both did very poorly in football this year.

Kurt: I know. Yeah. I had been following a little bit. Florida State was ranked high at the start, but not as good of a team as people had expected.

Mark: Yeah.

Kurt: Good. So tell me a little bit, I know that especially on social media, this is really a hot button issue. Before we get into say even the pros and cons of the repeal effort here of these regulations, take us back a few years ago at the very least and help us understand what was the atmosphere like. Why was there a perceived need to even bring about these regulations on internet service providers or ISPs?

Mark: Okay. So the motivations aren’t incredibly clear actually, but let me just back up a little bit. What people talk about are two different things. They used the same words to describe those things what is indeed a concept called net neutrality. In saying that name, quite a few years the principle is put into effect. If you go back to the people who originally designed the internet technologies, they ran into an issue which was when you have congestion in the network, how does the information flow through? Who gets to go through first? Who has to go through second? What have you, and how can people connect to it. What they decided was since this was about internet working they wanted anything to be able to connect with it. They also said for getting through those congested pieces let’s have it be first-come, first-serve. Those two things together several years later, quite a few years later as a matter of fact, were labeled net neutrality in a large journal article. That’s what it is supposed to mean. A few other things have gotten latched onto that title over the years, but that’s the basic idea, that people can kind of do whatever they want to to connect to the network and all traffic is essentially treated the same. It’s first-come, first-serve. That all became quite political and quite different when we got to the year 2014 and the story that I understand from watching how things worked in the media and knowing a few of the people who were involved in it, essentially the Federal Communications Commission was confronted with the issue that how is it going to regulate the internet and worked on trying a few different things over time and the courts had told them, “No. You can’t do it that way. You don’t really have legal authority for that.” So they were going through that once again and the Obama White House said, “What we really want is for the internet to be treated like a telephone company. Let’s regulate it as if it’s a public utility.” Before that time, the FCC had really not touched the internet. It’d always been light-handed. That started with the Clinton administration and continued through the Bush administration, the second Bush administration, and then of course through most of the years, the Obama administration, but then when they got to this decision in 2014 suddenly the Obama administration, the White House said, “No. Let’s treat this like a telephone company,” and then we can just completely control or completely regulate it and that’s what the FCC decided to do. That then came out as the decision in 2015 and that hasn’t gone quite as well as some people might have liked for it to. So the new FCC has decided to reverse that decision and go back to the way things were before 2015.

Kurt: For some people, they’re talking about this is internet companies are going to be able to charge whatever they might want, but it seems that even prior to 2015 that wasn’t necessarily the case where they didn’t necessarily jack up prices for using online gaming or just checking your email. It was still very much a lump sum monthly thing. Maybe first right off the bat here, we’ll just address this concern. While it seems logically possible that companies might do that, do you think that’s what will actually happen and even if they do jack up the prices, say for video gamers, or online streamers, is that necessarily a bad thing for all consumers?

Mark: Okay. So just to clarify, prior to 2015, no one regulated the prices that internet service providers charged consumers, retail customers. With that decision in 2015, the FCC still never regulated those prices. Those prices have never been regulated. There’s nothing in this decision that the FCC just voted on on Thursday that would change that. By classifying internet service as a telephone service which is what they did back in 2015, the FCC said “We have authority to” but they never actually did that and very specifically said they were not going to, so nothing has changed with respect to the regulation of the prices that you were just talking about.

Kurt: So tell me then, what exactly has changed? You explained that now the internet won’t be viewed as a public utility anymore, but what does that mean for us common folk? What sort of effects do we think will occur and will have had, if the repeal hadn’t gone through, what would we have expected to see with regard to internet service providers?

Mark: Okay. So you might think about, did you notice anything different between 2014 and 2015 or 2016 or even 2017? Chances are you noticed no change in your internet service from that, and I think that will be the case in this situation as well, that most consumers will not notice anything being different, especially nothing different that they could attribute to what the FCC did. What was happening though, under the regulations, is that it restricted the types of businesses that the internet service providers could offer, the services they could offer, but it was primarily services they would offer to what we call the edged providers, the Facebooks, the Amazons, the Googles, etc., all those people who are providing web services, including you, and they were just restricted. They couldn’t offer you anything except connect and if your traffic gets through well, then good for you. If it doesn’t get through well, life’s tough. We can’t do anything for you. When the FCC in 2015 said internet service providers, you can’t offer those kinds of new services and there was also an implied threat in the decision that internet service providers might have to what we call unbundle their networks which is take pieces of it and sell it to their competitors. The internet service providers said, “Wow. My profit prospects just went down,” and they cut back on the amount of the investment they were making. The estimates are that for the two year period this decision was in effect about $3.6 billion less investment was made that would have been otherwise. You probably didn’t notice any effect of that, but five years from now, ten years from now, you would, because the internet would not perform as well. It’d be hard to tell a consumer, “Well, things are just going to be really different for you.” They are, but you won’t be able to attribute it to this decision.

Kurt: So, for those that have read Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, I think he brings here what he calls an ecomonic fallacy, the fallacy of the broken window I believe. Basically, what you’re saying here is that as a result of this regulation, it would have prevented future growth to come sooner than it otherwise would have. Is that right?

Mark: I think that’s fair. So one of the things that was very specifically prohibited in this 2015 decision was for internet service providers to offer what’s called a fast lane. Someone like yourself, if you find that your streaming over the internet is just finding some congestion and you say “Could you please put me where there’s no congestion. Put me first in line.” That would help you out. If you are a competitor to Netflix or someone like that, that really helps you a lot because Netflix and some of the other big content providers, actually don’t go over the public internet to a large extent, and that’s a little complicated and I can explain how that is. All of us connect to the internet through a connection, but we’re connecting to the internet. The internet, the public internet, actually starts somewhere further into the network, and that is where these rules apply. They apply out there where the networks start connecting together. Your service is completely on that public internet. Netflix is not. Netflix bypasses it, because they know that their videos will reach congestion and then their service quality will be poor so they said, “I’m not doing that” and they built some of their own network facilities to be able to get by it, so if you want to compete with them, you need to try and get that same kind of quality. How do you do it? You can’t build your own network. You’re too small for that, but you could buy some put me first in line type services from an internet service provider.

Kurt: I know since we’re talking about these companies and some people, it’s really fascinating, they see that their worried against big business, but at the same time they want these big businesses, it seems like there’s cognitive dissonance going on. I have one friend, he’s concerned with how to compete, he’s in the music industry, and so he believes that by repealing net neutrality it’s going to be harder for people trying to get into the music industry to compete with streaming services like Pandora. What do you think will happen with the Obama era regulations being repealed? Will that make it harder for musicians trying to get a big break in the music field? Will the streaming services grow or is there something to make it more fair if you will for the small time folks?

Mark: There’s a lot I don’t know about the music business. There are things I probably couldn’t answer very well, but essentially what I suspect your friend is concerned about is something that’s called zero rating. That was never part of net neutrality. The FCC’s decision in 2015 did not really talk about that. The restrictions on that came from part of the bureaucracy of the FCC, some of the staff decided they didn’t like that very much and so they started trying to stop it, but zero rating can be a great benefit, again to small start-ups, so you take the kind of large content providers where they are already well-known, they have great services, they don’t have to market them very much, people talk about them. If you want to compete with that you need every advantage you can get. One of those might be to tell customers for thirty days I’ll pay for your data, and not only that, I’ll give you something else in addition. That gives you an opportunity to get a leg up that some of the largest content providers really don’t need so that opportunity to buy things that differentiate you are just great for the startup companies. The more opportunities you give a startup, the better off they’re going to be.

Kurt: So tell me, what you’re saying here is that as a result of the repeal of those regulations, you’re saying it’s going to be easier for small businesses or even people trying to make it into any industry, but who are utilizing the internet to do so, this is now going to be better for them, than had those regulations stayed in place. Is that right?

Mark: Yes. I think that’s certainly true. It’s just like I was trying to describe. If you take a critical feature of your business or input into your business which would be the internet, and you make everybody purchase it the same way, then there’s nothing you can do there to compete with the big guys. You have to compete with them completely in the space where they’re already the very best and the very biggest, but if you can go to an AT&T or a Verizon or a Cox or a Comcast and say, “Can you help me out a little bit? I can’t customize my network like Google can. I can’t customize my network like Facebook can. Those have all got their networks. Can you sell me some features that kind of helps me out?” That’s a good thing for you. It can’t hurt.

Kurt: Okay. Nice. Mark. This has been great so far. We do have to take a break here, but when we come back from the break, I want to ask you what are some other reasons why we might be happy that the repeal effort has occurred. I know for a lot of people, they’re unhappy, and I think that some of it just comes down to the marketing and the branding of the name net neutrality. When we come back from the break we’re going to talk more about the pros of the repeal of these regulations so stick with us through this short break from our sponsors. 

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Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn more about how you can become a sponsor, Veracityhill.com/patron. There are a couple of ways you can support us by being a sponsor. You can become a regular advertising sponsor, just get your logo on our website, or you can also have your ad played during the program so you can check that out as well, and if of course, you’ve got questions about how to support us in that way you can just email me, Kurt@veracityhill.com. I am here today talking with Dr. Mark Jamison. He is the Director and Gunter Professor of the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business, and he’s a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mark, before we took the break there you helped layout for us what net neutrality was, the background behind it, and a little bit of explaining what it is exactly, because I think for a lot of people they’re just unfamiliar with that. Before we jump back into the discussion and talk about those, the further benefits to repealing these efforts, we do a short segment on the show here called Rapid Questions. These are fun goofy questions that we ask our first-time guests. It is totally unrelated to today’s topic and so I’d like to try catch our guests off guard with this. If you are ready, we’ve got a minute. You’ll just answer some fun questions, if that’s okay with you.

Mark: It’s okay, but I may not be able to answer, but fire away.

Kurt: Alright. We’re going to start the game clock here and upon that you’ll hear my first question.

What is your clothing store of choice?

Mark: J.C. Penney.

Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?

Mark: Neither one.

Kurt: What school did you go to?

Mark: Most recently the University of Florida. Also went to Kansas State University.

Kurt: What’s your favorite sport?

Mark: Football.

Kurt: What is your spouse’s favorite holiday?

Mark: She likes all holidays.

Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?

Mark: I guess I don’t have one actually.

Kurt: Okay. Do you drink Dr. Pepper?

Mark: Yes I do.

Kurt: Amen to that. Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?

Mark: Of course.

Kurt: What’s the one thing you’d keep with you if you’re stranded on an island?

Mark: A book.

Kurt: The Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, or the Macarena?

Mark: I don’t dance very well. Things would get ugly if I had to do that.

Kurt: Okay. Last question, if you were a baseball pitch, which one would you be?

Mark: Probably a knuckleball. 

Kurt: A knuckleball. Nice. Great. Thanks for playing that round of Rapid Questions. Alright. What initially got me interested in bringing you on the show was an article that I saw published here by the American Enterprise Institute and what really even got me interested is that I’ve seen so much of the barrage against the repeal efforts of net neutrality, but here your article was talking about why the repeal effort would be a good thing, so you’ve got this list here of five reasons why we should be thankful for the repeal efforts and I want to just pick your brain on these five points here. The first reason you have is that the repealing of these regulations will bring about more of the innovations that you or you mean, consumers, want. Could you explain what you mean there? That there’s gonna be further innovations.

Mark: Yeah. There are two things and I was alluding to some of these earlier. One is that it takes the shackles off of internet service providers so they can be something besides just a pipe that things flow through. They can do enhancements. They can offer new things. That’s just by definition more innovation. And then in doing that, they can also enable persons like yourself, entrepreneurs, to be able to enhance their businesses, so you can as I was talking about before, maybe get some additional security features on your networks or maybe be able to move your content through when there’s a lot of emails and they would slow you down and you say, “Oh put me in front of those emails” so that your videos can actually get through smoothly. It enables people like you to do creative things on the internet.

Kurt: I was watching a video and to be honest I’m not sure who the gentleman was that was being interviewed, but he was explaining that in the future, there’s going to be more money that’s invested into the networks that are created. Right now we have 4G speed or the 4th generation, and that by repealing the regulations, that will allow us to more quickly get to 5G speeds. Is that right?

Mark: That’s probably true. Companies are pushing pretty hard to deploy the 5G technologies. That’s going to change our wireless telecommunications considerably. The profitability of doing that will be up. It will be higher because of the repeal of these rules, so the investments will flow faster.

Kurt: Your second reason, and maybe that even led here. You said more of the network investment that we would want. What does that mean? Network investment? Does that mean the greater speeds and greater range for areas that may not have even 4G speeds right now?

Mark: All of the above. Investing the network empowers a lot of things. It allows it to reach people that it’s not reaching now. It increases the capacity of the network so the speeds can be better and mean less congestion. It also allows for new technologies. That’s what the fifth generation wireless is all about, a whole different kind of technology if you will so that we can carry a lot more videos better and we can have what’s called the internet of things, all the machines talking with each other, about trading information, and so that’s what we’re talking about. Once you allow people new opportunities, they’re much more likely to make those investments.

Kurt: Those new opportunities, that’s a great segue here I think if I’m understanding your five reasons here, the third one you state here is more of the competition that we would want. What does that mean and specifically how does the repeal bring about competition that wouldn’t have otherwise happened?

Mark: Yeah. Suppose that when you were trying to decide who to have as your wireless provider, maybe you use T-Mobile, Spring, AT&T, Verizon, or some of the other smaller types, if they all had to look exactly the same, you wouldn’t care very much who you bought from. Everybody would be offering exactly the same thing. That means their prices would become exactly the same. For a lot of companies, that would just put them out of business. When you allow companies to be different from each other. When you allow them to say “I’m really going to be good for this type of customer,” or “I’m going to be really good for that type of customer,” that allows the market to be bigger, because you’ve increased the value for different types of customers, and then more companies can be profitable so more companies survive and you have more competition.

Kurt: So with the regulations that were in place, would that have benefitted the bigger companies and prohibited the smaller companies from trying to compete against those big companies?

Mark: Down the road, I think that would have happened, but that’s talking about benefitting them relative to their rivals. If everybody looks the same, then only a few are going to survive in that case. The regulations did harm the larger companies some because it kept them from being able to grow their businesses in other directions, but that particular feature, can you be different from someone else? The larger ones are probably, that’s more beneficial to them than the smaller ones.

Kurt: This instance reminds of the time when we had the internet tax that was being discussed and it was surprising I thought that Amazon came out in support of the internet tax, and you’d think why would a company like Amazon want to support an instance their customers are going to be charged more money and it dawned on me, “Oh. Because, Amazon, even though it hurts them a little bit, it hurts the smaller businesses even more because of their profit margins.” In this case with the big internet companies, even though it hurts them a little bit, they’ll be able to weather the storm and other companies wouldn’t. That creates an unfair competition because other companies are more apt to survive. As someone who likes the free market, I think that the regulations here really cause an unfair marketplace and so is that an apt analogy to this situation?

Mark: I think so. Actually, some of my very first research on this topic which has been a number of years again, and my analysis, and it’s an economics paper so it’s a lot of mathematical analysis, it basically showed that net neutrality type rules protect Google and the other large companies from competition. I talked with Google about that and they said, “Yeah. We saw that you said that.” They didn’t agree or disagree with me on it, but it really did benefit them, and I think that’s one of the reasons they were pushing this, is they knew it was going to keep some of the small competitors out, because it restricts them from getting any kind of a leg up. If you’re going to compete against the big guys, you’ve got to be different. You’ve got to have something that sets you apart, and net neutrality made that more difficult. 

Kurt: Your fourth reason here. The repealing of the regulations would lead to more of the transparency that we as consumers would want. What do you mean by transparency here?

Mark: I don’t know how many people in your audience know who the Federal Communications Commission is. Generally, these regulatory agencies are very obscure to the typical person, but we give these agencies a tremendous amount of power and authority, so the question is how do we regulate the regulator? If it is invisible to us and has a great amount of authority how do we know it’s not abusing that authority? One of the things we instituted in the U.S. and now it’s spreading all over the world, is this idea of transparency. Transparency means that you can sit and watch the regulator do his or her work. The regulator has to tell you everyone that it talks with. It has to tell you here are the issues I’m looking at, here is the data I’m using, here are the people I’m getting information from, and when they make a decision say, “Alright. Here’s my question I’m trying to address. Here’s the information I had. Here’s the decision I made and here’s how that all ties together.” In this case, what had been happening actually for a long time with the FCC and was very overt in the 2015 order was that the FCC was doing a lot of things behind closed doors. In most of the discussions about what would the FCC do back in 2014, 2015, actually it’s 2014, the discussion was about how would the FCC do a lighthanded regulation, which is what it’d always been before. Suddenly, about a month before the vote was to occur, the FCC’s chairman started giving talks about how “No. We’re going to do what’s called Title 2 with telephone regulation.” There had been no warning. There was no discussion for it. It just suddenly came up for a vote and the item that was being voted on, no one had seen except the five FCC commissioners. No one in the public had ever said this. Ajit Pai, the new FCC Commissioner said, “I don’t like that. When I’m going to vote on something, I want the public to see it. I want them to read everything that we’re dealing with.” That is what he has done, so this greater transparency is this greater opportunity to know exactly what the FCC is deciding, the information it’s using, and how it’s using that information.

Kurt: And maybe he’s just for a little bit regretting that because he’s now under all this pressure and flack for his decision.

Mark: Actually, I know Ajit Pai a little bit. I don’t know him real well. We’re both Kansans so that makes me feel good, but I know he knew the kind of heat he was going to be taking, and he knew how hard it would be to be transparent, but he’s very committed to that. That’s something very early on in his career that he decided this is really important. Government must be done in the full view of the public, so no matter how hard that is, he’s very committed to that principle.

Kurt: The fifth and final reason that you gave in this article that caught my attention. We as consumers would have more sound economic reasoning. What did you mean by that?

Mark: It’s interesting when you look at that 2015 decision, how little economic analysis there is in it and how much of the economic analysis is wrong, and this actually became a joke on the internet. The FCC, when it was going through all this work, had a gentleman named Tim Brennan, as their chief economist. I know Tim very well. He’s a professor at the University of Maryland. Sharp, very candid guy. A few months after the decision came out he was speaking at a program and he called it an economics-free zone. He said “That order was an economics free-zone.” He said there’s two reasons for it. He said that one is none of the economists were allowed any input into the work that was done. It was about six weeks or so before the vote was to happen. Suddenly people quit talking to the economists. We were not allowed to know what was going on. He also said, “When I look at the economics that’s actually in there, it’s wrong.” Another former chief economist, Michael Katz, he was the chief economist many years before, he also gave a talk at that conference and he said he found it very funny looking at the FCC’s decision because it cited some of his research papers. He’s an economist at the University of California-Berkeley. He said they cited my papers, but they cited them wrong. They said my paper said something it didn’t actually say. He said they would cite my paper’s being evidence that we should have this kind of regulation and my paper was actually about a different topic and so that was just very poor economics. One of the things that commissioner, chairman, Pai committed to is that they would do better economic analysis and as you look at how they proceeded through this proceeding, you can see it there. Their economists having input and the analysis actually mattered.

Kurt: That’s good. A number of the points that you made here. You want transparency. You want good competition between businesses, because as we see, the best field that I like to illustrate this with people, how competition is good, cell phone development. You’ve got the companies creating better, faster cell phones with different features and so because of that competition, we as consumers get a better product, and also the sound economic reasoning, the idea that there’s an economic free-zone, that just doesn’t make sense. Economics has a way of finding itself in many areas of our lives. 

Mark: The FCC is what we call an economic regulator. Their job is to regulate the economics of an industry, so it kind of makes sense that they use some economic analysis. 

Kurt: We’ve got a comment here from David, and so he wrote that net neutrality helped curb things that internet service providers were doing and they were even getting sued over. By having these net neutrality regulations, this helped to stop wasting tax payer dollars in fighting these corporations, say for false advertising. I think here he might have in mind, like, the throttling speeds. What would you say to David here who seems to have supported net neutrality?

Mark: You don’t need telephone type regulations to address that issue. If someone is falsely advertising or saying “We never slow down your traffic,” but then they really do, that’s a consumer protection. I’m not a lawyer, but I would call that fraud. We’ve got the Federal Trade Commission that deals with that in any industry. They can deal with that here as well, so yes, telling customers they’re buying one thing, but they’re really getting something else, that should never be allowed, but we already have laws that take care of that.

Kurt: Yeah. There are already laws that take care of false advertising and then those problems it seems can also be solved through the court system and so by having that happen, the companies wouldn’t want to go to court because they’re going to lose the court cases. It’s going to end up worse for them, and so yeah, it seems like even in the legal structure that already exists there’s a market preventative from having them do that so….

Mark: Right. And you don’t have to go through the courts. You have the consumer protection agencies in states and if it’s false advertising, they have authority there, but like I said we have a Federal Trade Commission at the federal government. That’s also their space. 

Kurt: So in this case, what you’d say to David is, “Well, it seems that net neutrality regulations were still nevertheless unnecessary for solving that problem.

Mark: Exactly.

Kurt: Okay. Last question here we’ve got is from Joe who asks, “How will the net neutrality repeal affect bitcoin?” Is there any relationship there between net neutrality and say crypto-currencies?

Mark: Well, it’s going to be very indirect. So what you see with the crypto-currencies is they’re being used a lot to fund start-up companies. Rather than try to go out to an angel investor or go to a venture capitalist and there are only a few of those in some of the spaces. It’s not always easy to get the funding. You can issue a crypto-currency. That has a lot of hazards to it, but it’s an opportunity. If there are more business opportunities for entrepreneurs in the internet space and they issue crypto-currencies, then you get more crypto-currencies issues, which is good in a way for bitcoin, because bitcoin kind of bridges between a lot of those crypto-currencies. On the other hand, they also compete with bitcoin so one of those two forces will win out. Right now they’re pushing against each other.

Kurt: So there’s competition even in the crypto-currency market.

Mark: Absolutely.

Kurt: I know bitcoin’s been on a craze. It’s up in the high teens per coin, $17 or 18 thousand. If I had invested in bitcoin when I was in college, oh boy.

Mark: That’s one of the big challenges with bitcoin. People are treating it like an investment, but if it’s really just a currency, there’s no investment value there at all. You’re just gambling on this kind of supply and demand and how that’s going to play out.

Kurt: I know that a lot of people are calling thinking it’s a bubble, and sometimes those bubbles, you never quite know when it’s going to pop, so even if it stays this way for a long time, it still might be a bubble.

Mark: It could be. I’ve got a brilliant graduate student that’s working on this. We’re trying to sort out what’s really going on here.

Kurt: Okay. Interesting. Fascinating. Keep us posted on that research. That’d be great. Before I let you go, I do want to ask you this. You were on the FCC transition team for president-elect Trump. Tell me, what was that like, and what were your duties in being appointed to that post?

Mark: That was probably the most fascinating moment, two months or whatever, in my career. You think about a transition team, what it’s for. The federal government, I may get the numbers a little bit wrong, but I think it has three million employees, and that doesn’t count all the contractors. That’s just the employees. The budget is four trillion dollars. If you’re elected President of the United States you have six weeks to take over an enterprise that is that huge and that is not easy to do. So what we do and I don’t know how long this has been done, is the outgoing administration designates people who will work with what’s called the transition team for the incoming administration and for the most part we’re all volunteers, at least those of us for the incoming, and our job is basically to take whatever kinds of policies and plans the incoming administration has, talk with the government agencies that are in place, and see how that might be done, so we’re really kind of at that point, a communication vehicle. Now before the election there’s a transition team in place as well. That one’s always kept secret, well was kept secret this time, that laid out what those policies would be. My work that’s public was what they called the landing team which was that interface. The great lesson for me in all of that is to see how politics works. I’m an economist. I actually teach people around the world how to do this kind of work of regulating utilities and how to think about this complex political environment that they’re in. One thing that I really enjoyed seeing was on my view of politics, how it really works, I was right. That was amazing to see. Sometimes us academics aren’t right.

Kurt: Nice. That’s great. It sounds like you had a wonderful opportunity there to serve in that capacity. As you said, sort of almost a career highlight if you will for you. Again, like I said we’ll have to bring you back on the show because I’ll be interested to know more about the crypto-currencies. Maybe we’ll have a show just on that. We haven’t done that yet so it’d be interesting to learn more about that and the pros and cons there. 

Mark: Yeah. It’s a fascinating topic, a former student of mine is in Silicon Valley and that’s his area of work. I’ve learned a lot from him.

Kurt: Nice. Dr. Mark Jamison, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

Mark: My pleasure.

Kurt: Alright. We’ll go ahead and put the article that caught my attention, we’ll put that on the web site. We also will put the link there so you can learn more about Dr. Jamison and the work that he has done and now, before we end, I love to play this little tune.

*clip plays*

Kurt: Alright. That’s the mail bag sound. We’ve got one comment from someone who wrote in on last week’s episode. This is from Steve[NP1] . He said, “Just as an FYI, first you may see this as minutiae, but this is one of the most overused false stats out there, and he is referring to last week, Dr. Jim Payton was talking about the number of denominations that exist out there in the world, and that number that’s often cited is the 33,000 and what we’ve got here is not so much an issue of all these denominations, because they’re independent churches, and they’re something like 22,000 independent churches. So, Steve thank you for citing that statistic because I agree with you, but I had agreed insofar as I was, I didn’t want to take the discussion off track too much with Dr. Payton last week, but you’re right. There are a number of independent churches that some people are counting as denominations and that’s not quite right. Rather, there are about 9,000 Protestant denominations, but I think Dr. Payton’s point remains. There are still too many, too many denominations out there and sadly, when anybody can start their own church, it means that there’s division within Christ’s followers and so that’s a thing to be concerned about. You’re right, it is a point of minutiae, but nevertheless, I think Dr. Payton’s point remains. Thank you so much for commenting on the livestream there from last week and I hope that you’ve also tuned in to this week.

That does it for the show today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the sponsorships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. Thank you to the tech producer today, Joel, for coming in and running the soundboard, and lastly I want to say one final thank you to our guest, Dr. Mark Jamison, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. 

 [NP1]Check name at 50:35

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Michael Chardavoyne

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