Research Update

Spring 2009

Greetings! We bring you research 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 research activities. We invite you to join our mailing list and receive our bulletins by email.


Social Science Research Network - Top Ten Paper...
Getting What You Pay For: Analyzing the Net Neutrality Debate

What happens if Internet service providers are allowed to charge Internet content providers for premium transmission services, contrary to the wishes of the net neutrality advocates? This paper finds that content innovation is stimulated on the edges of the network and that smaller content providers benefit more than do larger content providers. Furthermore, the research shows that the network provider increases its investment in network capacity when it offers premium transmission without degrading service for content providers that do not purchase the premium service. Read the paper, "Getting What You Pay For: Analyzing the Net Neutrality Debate".


Renewable Portfolio Standards and Cost-Effective Energy Efficiency Investment

How can policymakers coordinate their sometimes diverse energy and environmental policies? This paper uses two policies - renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and mandates to invest in cost-effective energy efficiency (EE) - to illustrate how policies can be made to work together. RPS and EE are increasingly popular policy tools to combat climate change and dependence on fossil fuels. These supply-side and demand-side policies, however, are often uncoordinated. Using California as a case in point, this paper demonstrates that states could improve resource allocation if these two policies were coordinated by incorporating renewable energy procurement cost into the cost-effectiveness determination for EE investment. In particular, if renewable energy is relatively expensive when compared to conventional energy, increasing the RPS target raises the cost-effective level of energy efficiency investment. Read the paper, "Renewable Portfolio Standards and Cost-Effective Energy Efficiency Investment".


State and Federal Policies to Accelerate Broadband Deployment: A Policy Checklist

Who should lead in broadband strategies? If state governments want to take the initiative, how should they do that? This paper suggests a five-step procedure for state broadband development in the context of the federal-state partnership that has evolved over the years. The previous administration took an incremental and decentralized approach toward broadband development. In this context, some states initiated their own programs for identifying gaps in broadband services between rural and urban areas. These experiences illustrated how shared policy concerns, such as health care services, education, economic development, and public safety and security, can be complemented by broadband policies. Examples of state laws enacted to facilitate broadband access are cited to illustrate state strategies toward reducing deployment gaps and increasing subscription. The Federal Communication Commission's latest order regarding data collection and its reconstituted Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Services may provide an opportunity for joint federal-state strategic policy formulation in the vein of that adopted by some states described in this article. Read the paper, "State and Federal Policies to Accelerate Broadband Deployment: A Policy Checklist" in CommLaw Conspectus: Journal of Communications Law and Policy.


Photo/Inter-American Development Bank

Water Utility Performance in Central America: The Political Economy of Coverage, Quality, and Cost

Performance indicators for water utilities in Central America do not give much reason for celebration. Data are sparse, suggesting a lack of transparency and public awareness regarding relative performance in the region. The resulting information asymmetries limit pressures for reform and can contribute to dysfunctional social conflict. This paper describes four sources of conflict in the design and implementation of water policies: authority conflicts (reflecting jurisdictional disputes over who has the last word), cognitive conflicts (based on technical disagreements regarding the analysis and interpretation of performance data), values conflicts (involving ideological differences or differential preferences for sector outcomes), and interest conflicts (where different groups—utilities, customers, unserved citizens, regions, and unions—benefit or lose, depending on the decision). Using data from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama, we survey the Central American experience. This study suggests strategies that might be adopted to promote conflict resolution and to improve water sector performance in the region, particularly with regards to universal service, service quality, and cost containment. Read the paper, "Water Utility Performance in Central America: The Political Economy of Coverage, Quality, and Cost".


Social Science Research Network - Top Ten Paper...
Toward an Economic Theory of Leadership: Leading Adaptive Change

What is the scientific basis for adaptive leadership? This paper examines how recent innovations in neuroscience, psychology, and economics have established a basis for a deeper understanding of how people can practice leadership to create deep change in organizations and systems. The paper explains that people provide adaptive leadership by exposing their organization to novel experiences, which often demonstrate that the way the organization operates is out of step with reality. Exposure to the novel experiences creates distress, which in the short term is disruptive and lowers organizational effectiveness. However, the desire to decrease this distress, improve productivity, and stimulate controlled cognitive processes, can motivate people in the organization to engage in adaptive work, which requires effort and consumes resources. Casualties may result from adaptive leadership: Some people will find the distress too much and leave the organization. Read the paper, "Toward an Economic Theory of Leadership: Leading Adaptive Change".


Consumers' Attitudes toward Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency: The Role of Electric Rates

With today's volatile energy markets and uncertain energy policies, how do consumers think about energy prices and energy conservation? This survey of Floridians' attitudes toward energy provides insights into what consumers know and how they think about these important issues. Floridians are evenly divided in their views about whether Florida will have a problem meeting its energy needs over the next 10 years, with 47% believing that it will be a problem and the same percentage believing it will not be one (with 6% not responding or undecided). Most also believe that the best way to meet Florida's electricity demand lies on the supply side (expanding the supply of resources), with the majority of these respondents preferring renewable resources. Only 11% thought that changes in consumer behavior would be able to take care of energy concerns, but 25% thought that higher energy prices were the best way to encourage conservation. The next most popular response - government incentives - was favored by only 17% of the survey respondents. A large majority of respondents, 89%, said that energy efficiency was a factor they considered when purchasing an appliance, but only 31% said it was the most important factor. Read the paper, "Consumers' Attitudes toward Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency: The Role of Electric Rates" in Florida Focus. View all Florida Focus Issues.


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