Two faculty members testified on Capitol Hill

June 16, 2009

Two Penn State faculty members testified before separate Capitol Hill committees on Wednesday, June 17, with one addressing a Senate group about wireless service and the other testifying before a U.S. House of Representatives committee about TV Marti.

Rob Frieden, the Pioneers Chair and professor of telecommunications and law in the College of Communications, appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is chaired by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.).

As part of his testimony, Frieden addressed the practice of wireless carriers and their agents combining the sale of handsets and service agreements. He compared that business model to government's regulation of wired telephones and televisions, where consumers may purchase the particular hardware (a telephone or television) without being tied to a specific service agreement or provider.

"If wireless carriers continue to combine handsets and service, the breadth and scope of wireless access will not match what consumers can access via television sets and personal computers," Frieden said. "Consumers have begun to expect many new and different services from wireless handsets, making these devices as diversified as a Swiss Army knife.

"Limitations on access can frustrate consumers, stifle innovation in wireless services and software applications, and adversely affect the international competitiveness of U.S. equipment and services."

Frieden is a leading analyst in the field of telecommunications and Internet infrastructure and has authored many comprehensive works on international telecommunications, cable satellite television and communications law. He has served on several telecommunications and trade delegations and has authored numerous articles and papers that have appeared in law reviews, trade journals and proceedings of major conferences.

The full transcript of Frieden's testimony is online at

John S. Nichols, professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research in the College of Communications, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, chaired by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), regarding TV Marti, the television network created by the U.S. government in 1990 to provide programming to Cuba.

The hearing focused on the network and its mission, specifically the wisdom of spending U.S. tax dollars to support the Miami-based network, which reaches only a small fraction of people in Cuba because of the host country's efforts to block the broadcast signal. Other testimony will come from Jess Ford, a director from the Government Accountability Office, and Philip Peters, vice president of the Lexington Institute.

Nichols, a member of the Penn State faculty since 1977 who has testified before Congress about Cuban issues in the past, specializes in international communications, comparative media systems and telecommunications policy. His current research is on U.S.-Cuban telecommunications disputes, specifically TV Marti.

In the past, Nichols has organized and led a U.S. congressional delegation to Cuba and has served as a consultant to ABC News on Cuban coverage. His insights also were included in an NBC News report about TV Marti. Nichols said the broadcasts were expensive and harmed the image of the United States.

"They're getting zero bang for their buck," he said. "It's counterproductive to U.S. foreign policy interests. It's embarrassing ourselves to the rest of the world, and we're in violation of international law by broadcasting it.

"It's not objective news and information. It's a political point of view of the exiles in south Florida. I think the real purpose, though, was to curry favor with a very important U.S. domestic political constituency, the Cuban-exile community that is all-important in presidential elections."

 The full transcript of Nichols' testimony is online at

  • Rob Frieden (left) and John S. Nichols

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010