#71: How Stuff Works: Bitcoin 101

April 29, 2016

Over the last few years, bitcoin and other virtual currencies have become increasingly viable alternatives to traditional money. Yet for most people, bitcoin is still a pretty obscure subject. What exactly is bitcoin? How does the blockchain work? Who’s in charge? Where does it derive its value? What does it mean to mine bitcoin? Evan is joined by Michael Bombace, TechFreedom adjunct fellow, who sheds some light on the world of cryptocurrency in today’s episode.

#70: Auctioning the Airwaves

April 28, 2016

As the demand for mobile data explodes, so does the need for spectrum holders to free up the airwaves for wireless carriers. While free, over-the-air television is still available using an antenna, Americans are much more likely to get their video through cable or Internet streaming. Last month, the FCC began its incentive auction of broadcast spectrum, whereby television stations sell spectrum to the government to then be sold to wireless carriers. Many broadcasters have voiced concerns that the auction may place excessive burdens on television stations that decide remain on the air. Ryan Radia, Associate Director of Technology Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, joins the show.

#69: TWC-Charter Merger and FCC Extortion

April 27, 2016

This week, the Department of Justice approved the merger of Charter and Time Warner Cable, the sixth and third biggest broadband providers in America. If the agency thinks the merger will benefit consumers without harming competition, why is the FCC attaching conditions to the deal? Is this consumer protection? Or regulation by extortion? Evan and Berin discuss. For more, see our statement.

#68: Uber Settles a Lawsuit

April 26, 2016

Last week, Uber settled a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company misclassified its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. While the settlement carries no legal precedent, it does mean that Uber can continue with its current business model while paying out up to $100 million to the plaintiffs — with $25 million alone going to attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who has sued several gig-economy companies. The rest will be split among roughly 385,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts who can expect an average of $80 each in winnings. Uber also agreed to increase transparency around its driver ratings and deactivation policies, among other concessions. Jared Meyer, a research fellow at the Manhattan Institute, joins to discuss the settlement and what it means for the gig economy going forward.

#67: Killing the Cable Box

April 25, 2016

The FCC wants to “unlock” the cable box. But shouldn’t the agency be helping to kill the box? The FCC recently proposed rules that would force cable, satellite, and telco video providers to make their programming accessible through third-party apps. Sure, it sounds great in theory, but the proposal poses serious concerns around privacy, piracy, and the way that independent and minority-owned programmers present their content. Moreover, the video industry is already moving away from clunky, costly boxes and offering programming through their own apps on devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast. Just last week, Comcast announced that its entire X1 interface would be available through an app. In the Golden Age of Television, what exactly is the FCC trying to solve? Is having too many apps and remotes really a national emergency? For more, see our press release and comments, which explains why the FCC’s proposal is doomed to fail in court.

#66: Government Transparency

April 21, 2016

These days, it costs almost nothing to publish information online. So why isn’t more government information available to the public? Taxpayers spend $100 million a year on the Congressional Research Service (CRS), but only Congress gets to decide whether the research gets published. Is that fair? Should the CRS just put it all online? Evan is joined by Kevin Kosar, Senior Fellow at the R Street Institute and a supporter of legislation that would make all CRS reports public. Is there any potential harm to releasing this information? Could more transparency improve citizens’ view of government? For more, see Kevin’s post on Medium.

#65: Student Debt and Technology

April 20, 2016

Our national student debt is sittin’ pretty at $1.3 trillion, and the number is rising by $3,000 every second. Can technology help solve the problem of ballooning student debt? Evan is joined by Liz Wessel, CEO of WayUP, a company whose mission is to get every college student the job — or jobs — they need to pay off student debt and have a fruitful career. What makes WayUP different? How is technology impacting the policy debate over student debt? What does this have to do with labor laws on the sharing economy? All that and more on today’s show.

#64: Encryption is a Global Issue

April 19, 2016

When the encryption debate is so often framed as “Apple v. FBI,” it’s easy to forget that digital security is a global issue. Nonetheless, how the United States decides to handle the issue will have an outsized impact on the rest of the world. Evan is joined by Amie Stepanovich, US policy manager at Access Now, an international civil society group dedicated to human rights in technology. She argues that we need global leadership on encryption, starting with the White House. What does President Obama think about encryption? How are other nations reacting to issues of digital security? For more, check out https://securetheinternet.org/.

#63: Special Prices for Business Broadband

April 18, 2016

While the FCC chooses not to regulate the prices that consumers pay for residential broadband — for now — the same isn’t true for businesses. Special access services are dedicated connections used by businesses to transmit voice and data. The FCC regulates the price of special access lines to ensure they’re provided at “reasonable” rates and terms and conditions. The Commission is looking at updating these regulations, and a new study from Hal Singer, Senior Fellow at GW Institute for Public Policy, warns that the new rules could depress investment in fiber technology. Evan and Singer discuss the study, whether the FCC should be in the rate-regulation business, and what this all means for consumers.

#62: Uber Surge and Price-Fixing

April 15, 2016

Uber’s surge pricing has come under fire — and not just from drunk passengers who paid exorbitant fares for rides home on New Years’ Eve. A new lawsuit alleges that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and anyone who signs up to drive for Uber is party to an illegal conspiracy to fix prices. Is surge pricing just a reflection of supply and demand and economics 101? Or is it something nefarious. Jared Meyer, a research fellow at the Manhattan Institute joins the show to discuss. For more, see his article in Reason.