PURC Update

Fall 2008

Greetings! We bring you news from the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) at the University of Florida. Our electronic newsletter is designed to keep utility regulators, policymakers and infrastructure managers informed of our upcoming programs, research activities and news about colleagues and resources. We invite you to join our mailing list and receive our bulletins by email.


Director's Take

Real options have captured the imagination of financial analysts, business planners, and cost analysts. They should also be part of every regulator's tool kit. What is a real option? A real option is the opportunity, but not the obligation, to make a particular decision.

Read more on Dr. Jamison's page, Director's Take.


Sandy's Selections

Dr. Sanford Berg shares his thoughts and invites you to visit his new web page, Sandy's Selections, for resources of interest, news about his students and other notes. Its link also appears under Faculty & Associates.

Read more at Sandy's Selections.


Training Programs

PURC/World Bank International Training Program

Congratulations to the 99 graduates of the 24th PURC/World Bank Program in June. They represented 35 nations. "Lessons from the Course," co-authored by the participants and Dr. Sandy Berg, are available on Sandy's Selections.

Since the program's inception in 1997, the number of utility regulators and managers who have graduated from the program totals 1,979. The 25th delivery of the PURC/World Bank International Training Program is scheduled January 12-23, 2009.

Practicing Leadership in a Political Environment: A One-Day Intensive Training Workshop for Emerging Leaders in Utility Policy

This PURC leadership workshop, scheduled January 24, 2009, will examine the activities, behaviors, mindsets and skills of a successful leader.

Participants will learn to identify and build a leadership style that encourages collaboration and team cohesiveness. They will also consider the personal practices of successful leaders in developing vision, resolving conflicts and setting priorities.

Providing Leadership in Utility Policy

Utility commissioners at the PURC/CLA leadership seminar preceding the NARUC Summer meeting in Portland examined the leadership skills needed to help the nation confront its energy and environmental challenges.

They discussed cases in which regulators can help stakeholders adapt to new realities for energy provision and costs, and how to help policy makers and the public make difficult tradeoffs and formulate policy changes where appropriate.


Presentations

Australia

"What should regulators know?" was the topic of a keynote address by PURC Director Mark Jamison at the annual conference in July of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in Gold Coast, Australia.

He emphasized that regulatory commissions today face adaptive challenges — situations where there is general disagreement over the relevant questions and how to make tradeoffs — and that regulators should be cautious about adopting technical fixes too soon in the process. Instead, regulators should maintain flexibility while helping the public, stakeholders, politicians, and researchers sort out how they view the future and how they will adjust to the new realities of energy prices, environmental policy, water limitations, and telecommunications convergence. Settling into a technical fix before enough is known would stifle important debates and likely create the need for costly re-engineering of regulatory decisions. At the same time, regulators cannot abandon their critical roles of providing an environment that encourages investment and that protects consumers against market power and undue discrimination. Approximately 400 regulatory professionals attended the conference.

Mexico

The value of collaborative activities between regulatory agencies and universities was the subject of a July presentation by PURC associate and former Florida Public Service Commissioner Isilio Arriaga in Mexico City at FIAR (Foro Iberoamericano de Agencias de Regulación), a forum on infrastructure regulation. During the session, PURC Assistant Director Araceli Castaneda updated forum attendees on PURC research and recent programs in Latin America and other regions of the world.

Canada

What happens if ISPs are allowed to charge Web sites for higher quality delivery of content? The amount and diversity of content grows. That's the conclusion of a recent study by PURC Director Dr. Mark Jamison and PURC Research Associate Dr. Janice Hauge.

Dr. Jamison presented the paper, "Getting What You Pay For: Analyzing the Net Neutrality Debate," in June at the International Telecommunications Society conference in Montreal.

Florida

Low income households in Florida are quickly cutting the cord and adopting cellular phones as their primary means of communications, according to a recent PURC study. In a May presentation to the Florida Public Service Commission in Tallahassee, PURC Director Mark Jamison noted that low income consumers are moving to wireless at a faster rate than higher income households. He added that low income households are adopting prepaid cellular phones because of their convenience and value for money. The presentation summarized recent PURC research on the Lifeline telephone discount program. The research found that the program's traditional focus on landline telecommunications is causing it to become out of date for eligible households. Not only is the program losing value for these consumers, but they also find it too hard to enroll, despite work by the Commission, telecommunications companies, and others to simplify and promote the program.

Will broadband be an engine of economic growth? That depends on whether consumers and businesses adopt new ways of using broadband and whether government policies encourage competition, according to PURC Director Mark Jamison. During his keynote speech in April at the Telecom Environment Management (TEM) 2008 conference in Orlando, he explained that while information technologies and telecommunications have been engines of economic growth in both developed and developing countries, there is still much to be learned about the potential impacts of broadband. The first challenge is to ensure that broadband is available to and used by the customers who can use it for growing the economy. This points to the need for competitive markets and to ensuring that regulatory decisions are kept out of the political arena. Dr. Jamison also encouraged the attendees to look beyond the simple broadband penetration statistics often mentioned in the press, and instead to look into measures of the intensity of use of telecommunications applications, an area where the United States holds a sizable lead over other countries. The second challenge to ensuring that economies leverage broadband is to develop a culture that is willing to transform its economic systems and organizations to take advantage of what broadband has to offer. This process of creative destruction appears to have been key to the resurgence of productivity growth in the United States, a resurgence that was made possible by using information technologies in new and creative ways.

"Will broadband be an engine of economic growth? That depends on whether consumers and businesses adopt new ways of using broadband and whether government policies encourage competition, according to PURC Director Mark Jamison.

Find more presentations on our content leaders page and more news on our news & events page.


Research Update

If you missed our first research e-newsletter, please visit the Research Update page.


The Gator Nation

Tobias Aloisi Swai, a graduate of the June 2004 PURC/World Bank International Training Program, and lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, returned to the University of Florida in May 2008 to participate in the 2008 International Academy of African Business and Development Conference, co-sponsored by PURC. He presented the paper, "Business Development Services to Small and Medium Enterprises: Experiences from an Online Business Plan in Tanzania."

More news from The Gator Nation can be found on our news & events page.

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