Research team to propose communication policy in Washington, D.C.

University Park, Pa. -- Hailed as "required reading for policymakers — and those who want to influence them," by FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, an ambitious book project overseen by Penn State’s Institute for Information Policy (IIP) that outlines a new telecommunications and media policy agenda for the United States will be launched today (Jan. 26) in Washington, D.C.

Sixteen scholars from 11 research universities across the United States, who formed the Future of American Communications (FACT) Working Group, were involved in the undertaking to formulate a telecommunications and media policy agenda for the new administration. The fruits of this effort, a book titled …And Communications for All: A Policy Agenda for a New Administration, will be presented at the New America Foundation.

The event will be televised by C-SPAN2 and streamed live online at http://www.newamerica.net/events/2009/and_communications_all, with keynote comments by Adelstein and Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal and international affairs, Consumers Union. Two panels will follow, in which FACT members will present and discuss key recommendations on issues including rural broadband, spectrum policy, the wireless industry, the cable industry, broadband competition and public broadcasting.

The FACT Working Group recommendations are based on a consensus that all communications services will eventually be provided over broadband and that the national goal should be to make broadband ubiquitous, content-rich and nondiscriminatory. Broadband policy should become a core part of the national agenda for economic recovery, according to the group, and achieving that goal requires adopting a comprehensive, national information policy that is technology neutral, socially inclusive and strikes a balance between promoting public goods and consumer markets.

The book has attracted attention in the nation’s capital, where members of President Barack Obama’s transition team were provided with galley copies soon after the election in November 2008.

The research includes analysis of the wireline, cable, wireless and broadcast industries. A special section of the book is devoted to broadband access. Because the group envisions communications policy reaching beyond access and connectivity and addressing such issues as education and civic engagement, the book discusses the future of public broadcasting, measures to ensure the safety of young audiences over the Internet and the need to reenact policies aimed at enhancing minority ownership and representation in media.

“While clearly ambitious, this year-long effort has reached its conclusion just in time,” said Amit Schejter, an assistant professor in Penn State's College of Communications and co-director of the IIP, who headed the project. “It offers the new administration a blueprint for communications policy that can also serve as a key element in any economic recovery plan. Investing in communications infrastructure serves our economy in the short run by helping jump-start it, and in the long run, by providing more Americans with an opportunity to take part in public life through a state-of-the-art national broadband network.”

The project was supported by the Media Democracy Fund. Along with Schejter, Penn State contributors to the project include: Richard Taylor, co-director of the IIP and the Palmer Chair Professor of Telecommunications Studies in the College of Communications; Rob Frieden, the Pioneers Chair in Cable Telecommunications in the College of Communications; Krishna Jayakar, an assistant professor in the College of Communications; and Andrea Tapia, an assistant professor in the College of the Liberal Arts. An executive summary of the Working Group’s recommendations, a table of contents for the book and a list of the group members can be found at http://www.fact-wg.info online.

The book is available at the publisher’s (Lexington Books) Web site, http://www.lexingtonbooks.com, and at http://www.amazon.com online. It has been endorsed by leading policymakers, members of the advocacy community and academics.

“These respected authors serve up a rich banquet of food for thought,” Adelstein said. “Just as innovative technologies will continue to drive our economic growth, the creative proposals in this book should drive innovation in developing the communications agenda to meet the new challenges we face.”

Kimmelman said the book “offers many essential policy adjustments that the new administration should implement to promote a more affordable, open communications network that advances democracy and enhances freedom.”

Michael X. Delli-Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, praised the book as an excellent collection of essays and said, “Few issues are more fundamental to the healthy functioning of our democracy than the existence of an open and diverse media system. For too long communication scholars have been absent from ongoing policy debates about how to best achieve this goal. This timely and excellent collection of essays, written by some of the leading scholars in the field, goes a long way toward remedying this abdication of our public interest obligation.”

Also, David Waterman, a professor at Indiana University, noted: “It is remarkable to find a book that genuinely integrates the work of contributing authors. Amit Schejter has accomplished that in this work, bringing together many of the brightest minds in communications policy to make a forceful set of policy recommendations on the full range of current issues, from wireline regulation and universal service to public television.”

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Last Updated December 03, 2010