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What Can Contact Lens Prices Teach About Telehealth Regulation?

Rising health-care costs present a large burden to future Americans. Telehealth and e-commerce can keep rising health-care costs in check and increase the quality of care and the patient experience.

Transitioning towards telehealth and more health-related e-commerce presents a regulatory challenge. There are health services that should, of course, be provided in person, while others can be provided remotely with limited risk to the patient. One clear area is in the contact lens market. Once an optometrist issues a prescription, consumers can easily judge for themselves where to buy contact lenses. There are no obvious health concerns or risks for individuals from purchasing contacts from a licensed seller rather than from an optometrist. Brands are relatively static, and consumers have constant but predictable demand for the number of contacts they buy. Furthermore, contacts are easy to ship. In fact, it’s hard to think of a health-related industry more primed to turn e-commerce into cost savings for consumers than the contact industry.

However, online sales of contact lenses in the United States lag behind those of several other countries. Online sales represent 18 percent of U.S. sales, but 25 percent

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Transatlantic Digital Cooperation Will Require Hard Debates

As the global Internet economy evolves and becomes more interconnected, cross-border policy tensions are rising, as is the need to resolve these tensions and conflicts in ways that continue to spur growth and innovation. To that end, I was honored to be a member of the Atlantic Council’s Task Force on Advancing a Transatlantic Digital Agenda. However, I was one of five members who, at the end of the day, could not have my name listed as endorsing the Task Force report.

First, it’s important to recognize the hard work of the commission members and staff and the significant parts of the report that will make a real contribution to better resolving transatlantic digital tensions. The report comes up with a number of creative and useful proposals, such as creating a new US-EU Digital Council, increasing cooperation with regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, lifting foreign investment caps in the telecom sector, and others. And its broad based support for transatlantic data flows and multi-stakeholderism for Internet governance is needed and welcome.

But there were other proposals and language I cannot support. The report’s discussion of net neutrality

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Censorship in France threatens to go abroad.

France Demands Right to Censor the Global Internet

In 2014, Europe’s highest court ruled that Europeans have the ability to request that search engines remove links from queries associated with their names if those results are irrelevant, incorrect, or outdated. As a result of this ruling, Google agreed to delist search results from country code level domains—such as for France—to remove offending results for European users, without affecting the rest of its users worldwide. Earlier this month, Google expanded its practice so that it now will delist offending results from all Google search domains, including, for all European users, based on geo-location signals, such as IP addresses. So a user in France would not see delisted URLs even if they visit instead of France is now saying that this is insufficient and Google must take down offending material for all users visiting any of its domains worldwide.

Last week, the French privacy authority, the Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), fined Google €100,000 ($112,000) for failing to remove links associated with French right-to-be-forgotten requests from its global search index. France is trying to force its domestic policies on the rest of

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Assessing the Costs of a More “Closed” Internet

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at a very interesting and informative OECD workshop this week in Washington, DC, on how to better measure the benefits of the open Internet and the costs of restricting access to it. This is a critical question, because a growing number of governments around the world are blocking Internet flows or prohibiting access to certain content. There needs to be a stronger case for how, why, and to what extent these policies stunt economic growth and inhibit social progress. Yet marshaling such an argument requires not only better data and analysis but also the right conceptual framework.

People often use the terms “open” and “closed” Internet without defining them. Here, fully “open” means everyone is free to share and access any information they wish, and more “closed” means governments or other third parties are blocking or prohibiting vast troves of information. A draft background document that the OECD distributed to panel participants was helpful in that it rightly acknowledged that the Internet is not fully “open,” nor should it be. As ITIF has argued, the Internet is not fully open anywhere,

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Piracy-midnight cowboy

The True Damages of Online Piracy? It’s Hard to Measure

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that online piracy is detrimental to content creators, including in the film and music industries. However, academics studying the effects appear to be behind the curve. A few studies, brandished by illegal content providers to perpetuate the myth that content theft is a ‘victimless crime,’ claim to show that illegal downloads actually contribute to industry profits.

In theory, pirates are additional viewers who could purchase merchandise or generate word-of-mouth advertising that could get others to legally view the content. If the good outweighs the bad, then piracy might actually be helping the content industry. Leaving aside the issue of morality of theft, given the scale of online piracy, it’s hard to imagine the good truly outweighing the bad. Yet there are data-driven studies by real academics insisting that digital piracy is a boon for content creators.

However, a new meta-analysis of literature examining the effects of online-piracy, Friends or Foe? A Meta-Analysis of the Link Between “Online Piracy” and Sales of Cultural Goods by Wojciech Hardy, Michal Krawczyk, and Joanna Tyrowicz, shows that these papers finding that digital piracy does not have

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The Internet Is not (Fully) Open, nor Should It Be

To listen to the debate about Internet governance, the world faces a Manichean choice between an open Internet—where everyone is free to share any information they wish—and a closed one, where governments block and prohibit vast troves of information. Given this stark choice, the only sensible side to take is openness. After all, as ITIF has shown, global information flows are critical not only to commerce but to the general flourishing of the knowledge economy and democracy.

But as in all other aspects of society, we don’t actually face such a binary choice. Reality is far more nuanced. The Internet is not completely open, nor should it be. As a case in point, the world should welcome the recent announcement by major Internet firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, which are taking steps to block images of child sexual abuse. In this particular case, leading Internet companies are using a database of digital fingerprints compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation to identify known child sex abuse images and block their distribution.

Because what is being blocked is rightly deemed to be horrific and socially corrosive, even the

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High-Growth Entrepreneurship for Development: Report of a Roundtable with Michael Dell

Policymakers around the world have increasingly come to realize that entrepreneurship, particularly high-growth entrepreneurship (HGE), is critical for economic development in nations at all levels of development. That is one reason the United Nations Foundation asked Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., to be the Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship and to work closely with the Foundation and its Global Entrepreneurs Council to help shape and advance a global entrepreneurship agenda.

To inform the Council’s thinking, Michael Dell led a meeting in Washington, DC, on December 2, 2014, hosted by 1776, a cutting-edge “accelerator” to help technology-based entrepreneurs translate their ideas into growing businesses. The meeting participants included tech-based entrepreneurs and policymakers, and I was asked to participate and serve as rapporteur.

Michael Dell opened up the roundtable with a discussion of proposed policy mechanisms to spur high growth entrepreneurship, including ensuring access to capital, technology, talent, and markets. The following is a summary of the themes and recommendations from the discussion.

The Nature of Technology-Enabled Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Policymakers around the world are interested in HGE because they understand that technology opportunities driving this type of entrepreneurship have exploded.

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Chris Dodd and Nancy Pelosi

The Culture Addict Dream Conference

Each year, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) hosts a large conference at the Newseum dedicated to highlighting what is new in creativity, content, and technology around the world. At the most recent confab, held on Friday, April 24, MPAA’s message focused on how creativity and innovation will play an even more integral role in the future than they do today. Indeed, the Creativity Conference is about exploring the critical intersection between technology and the arts, and their capacity to drive invention and economic growth across industries and regions. Bringing together leaders from the worlds of politics, media, business, and the arts, the Creativity Conference engages its audience in an open dialogue on the meaning of creativity, its economic impact across sectors, and the ways in which we can continue to protect and nurture American innovation and innovators.

At the conference, a group of leading, innovative women discussed the ways in which Hollywood and Washington, D.C. intersect. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D – CT), Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs), Barbara Hall (Creator and Executive Producer, Madam Secretary) and Lori McCreary (President, Producers Guild of

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Mobile Phone

Florida’s Cell Phone Tax Cut Could Help Reduce the Digital Divide

Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) is asking the Florida legislature to cut $470 million in taxes that the state collects from residents on their cell phone, satellite, and television bills. This proposal to cut the cellphone and TV tax rate by 3.6 percentage points will not only put money back into the pockets of everyday Floridians, but it is also a positive step in the right direction to help reduce Florida’s digital divide and will enable more innovation though mobile broadband.

Florida has one of the highest tax rates for wireless services (16.59 percent), falling behind only Washington, Nebraska and New York. In fact, consumers in seven states—Washington, Nebraska, Rhode Island, New York, Illinois, Missouri, and Florida—pay in excess of 20 percent of their bills for their combined state and federal tax rates.

So why have these taxes to begin with? States have traditionally turned to taxing services that people consume in their home because it is a reliable form of revenue. Someone in Florida cannot travel to Georgia to get a lower tax rate on their cell phone bill like they could for purchases of goods that include

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The Miraculous Cell Phone

As the economy emerges from the Great Recession, it is hard to deny that times are still tough for many Americans. Some advocates have attributed difficulties to rising basic costs such as health care and, puzzlingly, cell phones, that limit discretionary spending power. The Wall Street Journal, in an article about rising costs for the middle class, reports that spending on cell phones by the average American middle class family has increased by 49 percent from 2007 to 2013 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Some have interpreted this as showing that price inflation for these services is growing faster than the overall consumer price index (CPI).

But what it in fact shows is that while Americans are spending more on these telecom services they are getting more.  Americans are spending more on cell phones in part because more Americans have cell phones- the number of cell phones in the United States grew by 17 percent from 2007 to 2013. At the same time, spending on landline telephones declined by 31 percent over the same period. So spending on all phones, the more accurate measure

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