Title: Incentive Auctions and Spectrum Repacking
Speaker: Kevin Leyton-Brown
Abstract: This talk will discuss the FCC’s “incentive auction”, which proposes to give television broadcasters an opportunity to sell their broadcast rights, to repack remaining broadcasters into a smaller block of spectrum, and to resell the freed airwaves to telecom companies. The stakes for this auction are huge—projected tens of billions of dollars in revenue for the government—justifying the design of a special-purpose descending-price auction mechanism, which I’ll discuss. An inner-loop problem in this mechanism is determining whether a given set of broadcasters can be repacked into a smaller block of spectrum while respecting radio interference constraints. This is an instance of a (worst-case intractable) graph coloring problem; however, stations’ broadcast locations and interference constraints are all known in advance. Early efforts to solve this problem considered mixed-integer programming formulations, but were unable to reliably solve realistic, national-scale problem instances. We advocate instead for the use of a SAT encoding, paired with a wide range of techniques: constraint graph decomposition; novel caching mechanisms that allow reuse of partial solutions from related, solved problems; algorithm configuration; algorithm portfolios; and the marriage of local-search and complete solver strategies. We show that our approach solves virtually all of a set of problems derived from auction simulations within the short time budget required in practice.
Bio: Kevin Leyton-Brown is a professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia and an associate member of the Vancouver School of Economics. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. from Stanford University (2003; 2001) and a B.Sc. from McMaster University (1998). He studies the intersection of computer science and microeconomics, addressing computational problems in economic contexts and incentive issues in multiagent systems. He also applies machine learning to the automated design and analysis of algorithms for solving hard computational problems.
He has co-written two books, “Multiagent Systems” and “Essentials of Game Theory,” and over 100 peer-refereed technical articles; his work has received over 8,000 citations and an h-index of 36. He is the recipient of UBC’s 2015 Charles A. McDowell Award for Excellence in Research, a 2014 NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship—previously given to a computer scientist only 10 times since its establishment in 1965—and a 2013 Outstanding Young Computer Science Researcher Prize from the Canadian Association of Computer Science. He and his coauthors have received paper awards from JAIR, ACM-EC, AAMAS and LION, and numerous medals for the portfolio-based SAT solver SATzilla at international SAT solver competitions (2003–15).
He has co-taught two Coursera courses on “Game Theory” to over half a million students, and has received awards for his teaching at UBC—notably, a 2013/14 Killam Teaching Prize. He is chair of the ACM Special Interest Group on Electronic Commerce, which runs the annual Economics & Computation conference. He serves as an associate editor for the Artificial Intelligence Journal (AIJ), ACM Transactions on Economics and Computation (ACM-TEAC), and AI Access; serves as an advisory board member for the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR, after serving as associate editor for eight years); and was program chair for the ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (ACM-EC) in 2012. In 2016 he was a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a visiting professor at Harvard’s EconCS group. Previously, he spent the fall of 2015 at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at UC Berkeley, and split his 2010–11 sabbatical between Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He currently advises Auctionomics, Inc. (and through them, the Federal Communications Commission) and Qudos, Inc. He is a co-founder of Kudu.ug and Meta-Algorithmic Technologies. In the past, he served as a consultant for Zynga, Inc., Trading Dynamics Inc., Ariba Inc., Cariocas Inc., and was scientific advisor to UBC spinoff Zite Inc. until it was acquired by CNN in 2011.