Penn State-led research team offers counsel for new administration

University Park, Pa. — An ambitious research collaboration involving 16 scholars at 11 research universities across the United States, overseen by Penn State’s Institute for Information Policy (IIP), has produced a telecommunications and media policy agenda for the new presidential administration.

The Future of American Communications Working Group (FACT) has just completed a yearlong effort aimed at addressing numerous challenges facing America’s communications industries. The fruits of this effort will be made public in a book titled “… and communications for all: A Policy Agenda for a New Administration,” scheduled to be published within days of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

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. 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.

Members of the group urge that immediate steps be taken by the new administration, including:

  • enacting a network neutrality policy;
  • capping universal service expenditures at sustainable levels while redesigning universal service policy so that it is broadband focused; and
  • conducting an inventory of federal spectrum to determine if it can be used more efficiently to promote social and economic benefits.

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 to address 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 yearlong effort has reached its conclusion just in time. It offers the new administration a blueprint for communications policy as well as a key part of any economic recovery plan,” said Amit Schejter, assistant professor and co-director of the IIP. “Investing in communications infrastructure serves our economy in the short run by helping jump-start it, and in the long run, by providing opportunity for more Americans to take part in public life through a state-of-the-art national broadband network.”

The project was supported by the Media Democracy Fund. An executive summary of the Working Group’s recommendations, a table of contents for the book and a list of the group members may be found at www.fact-wg.info online.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009