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Brent Skorup

Brent Skorup

Brent Skorup is a Research Fellow in the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research topics include wireless policy, new media regulation, competition, and telecommunications.

Articles by Brent Skorup

Brent Skorup on Marketplace – Net Neutrality

February 19, 2021

Brent Skorup comments on the conflict between California and the federal government over net neutrality. The Biden administration has withdrawn from the lawsuit, but the net neutrality battle is far from over. Listen on Soundcloud.

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Texas Fares Well With Drone Policy and Has Potential to Become a Leading Locale for the Drone Industry

October 16, 2020

Chair Hancock, Vice Chair Nichols, and members of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce,
I’m a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. By training, I am an attorney, and my research focuses on emerging technologies. I am also a member (nonvoting) of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Task Force and a drone law adviser to the Virginia Department of Aviation. Through that work, I have had the pleasure of interacting with the regulators and companies around the country who are working on aerial vehicles and drones. Though my views and policy recommendations have been shaped by discussions on the task force, the views I present here are my own.
I would like to commend you and the committee for raising the issue of

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Prioritize Fast and Accurate Diagnostic Testing in the Short Term

September 8, 2020

Good morning, Chair Phillips-Hill, Minority Chair Kearney, and distinguished members of the committee:
It’s a pleasure to be with you again. My name is Brent Skorup and I’m an attorney, technologist, and senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
It’s commendable that lawmakers, governors, and mayors around the country, including in Pennsylvania, are prioritizing public health in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Using contact tracing apps like the one proposed for Pennsylvania should be voluntary, lawmakers should know how they function, and users should know what information is collected and who will use it. That said, caution is warranted: the public is skeptical of using these apps. While the app under consideration doesn’t track user location, the public

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Title I Broadband Policy Will Have a Small or Beneficial Net Effect on Public Safety Communications

May 20, 2020

The Fourth Branch Project of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the effects of regulation on society. As part of its mission, the project conducts independent economic and legal analyses to assess agency rulemakings and proposals from the perspective of consumers and the public. Therefore, this reply comment does not represent the views of any particular affected party but is designed to assist the agency as it explores these issues.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested a refresh of the record regarding the effect of reinstatement of Title I internet policy for public safety, pole attachments, and Lifeline. A common tactic from commenters opposing the FCC’s deregulatory efforts is to formulate worst-case scenarios in

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Auto Purchase Trends, Mobility as a Service, and Autonomous Vehicle Adoption

November 1, 2019

Last month I spoke at the Innovation Summit in Orlando, hosted by the James Madison Institute. My co-panelists on the transportation panel were Jamal Sowell, President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, state senator Jeff Brandes, who cosponsored Florida’s autonomous vehicle (AV) legislation this year, and Stephanie Smith from Uber. Romina Boccia from the Heritage Foundation was our moderator.
It was a great event and the panel discussion made clear that Florida is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle policy. The panel got me thinking about some nationwide trends that are pushing people towards ride-sharing and, eventually, mobility as a service and autonomous vehicles. Florida seems well positioned but many of these trends will affect the ridesharing and autonomous vehicle market in the

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Locast and Deteriorating TV Laws

October 17, 2019

In the US there is a tangle of communications laws that were added over decades by Congress as, one-by-one, broadcast, cable, and satellite technologies transformed the TV marketplace. The primary TV laws are from 1976, 1984, and 1992, though Congress creates minor patches when the marketplace changes and commercial negotiations start to unravel.
Congress, to its great credit, largely has left alone internet-based TV (namely, IPTV and vMVPDs), which has created a novel “problem”: too much TV. Internet-based TV, however, for years has put stress on the kludge-y legacy legal system we have, particularly the impenetrable mix of communications and copyright laws that regulates broadcast TV distribution.
Internet-based TV does two things—it undermines the current system with regulatory

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Reform Proposals for Broadband Policy in Pennsylvania

September 23, 2019

Good morning, Chair Phillips-Hill, Minority Chair Santasiero, and distinguished members of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee:
My name is Brent Skorup, and I am an attorney and senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. I also serve on the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
It is commendable that state legislatures, governors, and cities around the country, including in Pennsylvania, are prioritizing broadband deployment. Lawmaker focus should remain on the pressing broadband issues of competition, deployment, and adoption.
No one can accuse the government of doing nothing about rural telecommunications services. The federal government has spent more than $100 billion on rural

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Sen. Warren's Rural Broadband Plan and the Two Percent Problem

September 12, 2019

Last month, Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren released a campaign document, Plan for Rural America. The lion’s share of the plan proposed government-funded and -operated health care and broadband. The broadband section of the plan proposes raising $85 billion (from taxes?) to fund rural broadband grants to governments and nonprofits. The Senator then placed a Washington Post op-ed to decrying the state of rural telecommunications in America. 
While it’s commendable she has a plan, it doesn’t materially improve upon existing, flawed rural telecom subsidy programs, which receive only brief mention. In particular, the Plan places an unwarranted faith in the power of government telecom subsidies, despite red flags about their efficacy. The op-ed misdiagnoses rural broadband

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The FCC Should Impose a Cap on the Universal Service Fund

August 26, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proceeding. The Fourth Branch project of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the effects of regulation on society, commerce, and innovation. As part of its mission, the project conducts independent legal and economic analyses to assess agency rulemakings and proposals from the perspective of consumers and the public.
In response to the FCC’s query, American consumers and taxpayers would benefit if the FCC would cap the Universal Service Fund (the Fund) expenditures and, perhaps, reduce its budget. The Fund has been growing despite an increasingly competitive telecommunications market and the Fund’s failure to achieve its core purposes.
Background
The Fund was created by Congress in the

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The FCC Should Modernize Over-the-Air Reception Device Rules

June 18, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proceeding. The Fourth Branch project of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the effects of regulation on society, commerce, and innovation. As part of its mission, the project conducts independent legal and economic analyses to assess agency rulemakings and proposals from the perspective of consumers and the public. My comments include the following key points:
1.     The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authority to regulate small outdoor antenna siting and effect the proposals in the notice of proposed rulemaking.
2.     Modernizing the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rules would give regulatory certainty to wireless services that currently fall into a gap in

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Free-Market Spectrum Policy and the C Band

May 23, 2019

An interesting divide has opened up in recent months among right-of-center groups about what the FCC should do with the “C Band.” A few weeks ago, the FCC requested public comment on how to proceed with the band.
The C Band is 500 MHz of spectrum that the FCC, like regulators around the globe, dedicated for satellite use years ago and gave to satellite companies to share among each other. Satellite operators typically use it to transmit cable programming to a regional cable network operations center, where it is bundled and relayed to cable subscribers. However, the C Band would work terrifically if repurposed for 5G and cellular services. As Joe Kane explained in a white paper, the FCC and telecom companies are exploring various ways of accomplishing that.
Free-market groups disagree.

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Colorado Broadband Policy Should Focus on Competition and Deployment

March 28, 2019

Good afternoon. My name is Brent Skorup and I am a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. I also serve on the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
It is commendable that state legislatures, governors, and cities around the country, including in Colorado, are prioritizing broadband deployment. The focus should remain on the pressing broadband issues of competition and deployment. The political battles in Washington, DC, about net neutrality, which I have observed over the past decade, have alarmingly spread to statehouses in recent months, and they will distract from far more important issues.
Lawmakers should enter the debate with their eyes wide open about the stakes and the unintended effects of

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The Department of Transportation Should Maintain Strict Tech Neutrality for V2X Devices

January 25, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to comment about this important development in auto safety and technology. The Fourth Branch Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the effects of regulation on society, commerce, and innovation. As part of its mission, the program conducts independent legal and economic analyses to assess agency rulemakings and proposals from the perspective of consumers and the public.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) requested comments regarding vehicle-to-anything (V2X) communications technology. The attached public interest comment was filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in April 2017 regarding the proposed mandate of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology for

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American Spectrum Policy Should Allow More Compensation to Agencies for Clearing and More Geographic-Based Sharing

January 22, 2019

The Fourth Branch Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the effects of regulation on society, commerce, and innovation. As part of its mission, the program conducts independent legal and economic analyses to assess agency rulemakings and proposals from the perspective of consumers and the public.
The notice asks,
How could a spectrum management paradigm be structured such that it satisfies the needs of commercial interests while preserving the spectrum access necessary to satisfy the mission requirements and operations of Federal entities?
Federal agencies are market participants for many indispensable inputs—including electricity, vehicle fleets, office supplies, and labor—but not, anomalously, for spectrum. Economic

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State Policy and Air Taxis

January 11, 2019

Air taxis and electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) will receive significant regulator attention in 2019 as companies test these aircraft and move towards commercialization. I’m fairly bullish on the technology and its potential and I’m pleased to see state lawmakers and mayors, however, seem to be waking up to the massive possibilities of this industry. 
A recent NASA-commissioned study estimates that in the best-case scenario, the U.S. air taxi market would be worth about $500 billion annually, which is nearly the size of the U.S. auto sector. This translates into about 1 million air taxis in the air and 11 million flights per day. Morgan Stanley researchers recently estimated that the global flying car market could be about $1.5 trillion annually by 2040. 
You can

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Resolved: Cities Should Build for Autonomous Vehicles

December 12, 2018

This is the first in a two-part series by Brent Skorup and Emily Washington discussing the future of autonomous vehicle infrastructure.
Technology improvements in the last few years—namely, in computation and mobile broadband networks—have stimulated a small gold rush in autonomous vehicle (AV), connected car, and smart city technologies. Many of these “smart road” applications will supplement AV technology and services. Some smart road applications will look familiar—like auto “infotainment” and video streaming on road trips—but some are novel, like remote-controlled long-haul semi-trucks and location beacons for deliveries. A network’s distance from a car or user matters, but smart road and AV innovators to date have had limited access to important public property closest to

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Does Net Neutrality Increase Online Freedom?

November 28, 2018

Until recently, I wasn’t familiar with Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net reports. Freedom House has useful recommendations for Internet non-regulation and for protecting freedom of speech. Their Freedom on the Net Reports make an attempt at grading a complex subject: national online freedoms.
However, their latest US report came to my attention. Tech publications like TechCrunch and Internet regulation advocates were trumpeting the report because it touched on net neutrality. Freedom House penalized the US score in the US report because the FCC a few months ago repealed the so-called net neutrality rules from 2015.
The authors of the US report reached a curious conclusion: Internet deregulation means a loss of online freedom. In 2015, the FCC classified Internet services as a “Title II”

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