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From Broadcast To Broadband

New Theories of the Public Interest in Wireless


In coordination with New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, and the Rutgers School of Law | Camden: Institute for Information Policy & Law.

Please join us for engaging panels discussing the public interest in wireless and broadband.


9:00am - 9:30am — Registration

9:30am - 9:45am  — Keynote: Larry Irving, President & CEO, Irving Information Group

9:45am - 10:45am — Panel 1: The End of Scarcity? What, If Any, Public Interest Obligations Are Necessary in Broadband?

Broadcasters hold their licenses as "trustees" of the local community, with defined public interest obligations.  Although these have not always been robust or diligently enforced, there was a theory of the public interest based on values about diversity, localism, children’s special needs, access, and competition.  This theory was rooted in a particular market/technological structure of scarcity.  As spectrum moves from broadcast to wireless broadband use, is “scarcity” still a relevant concept?  How is it related to theories of the public interest?  What are the public interests in wireless broadband and what kinds of policy interventions do they require? 

Joaquin Alvarado
Former Senior Vice President for Digital Innovation
American Public Media
Mark Lloyd
Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer
Federal Communications Commission
Andy Schwartzman
Senior Vice President and Policy Director
Media Access Project
Kevin Werbach
Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Ellen Goodman
Rutgers  University School of Law
10:45am - 11:00am — Coffee Break

11:00am - 12:00pm — Panel 2: What is the Public Interest in Wireless?

Traditionally, mobile telephony has focused primarily on universal service as the key public interest obligation, similar to wireline voice service. As the rise of mobile broadband and smart devices enable new capabilities for communities, do we need to reexamine what it means to make sure that wireless licenses serve "the public interest, convenience and necessity?" What is the role of unlicensed wireless access? Is unlicensed itself a public interest value? Alternatively, does the fact that unlicensed spectrum is open to anyone mean that there are no special obligations attached to its use? If so, should we allow unlicensed wireless providers to benefit from subsidies such as lifeline and high cost that have usually been part of the quid pro quo for the obligation to serve the broader community?

Wally Bowen
Founder and Executive Director
Mountain Area Information Network

Benjamin Lennett
Policy Director
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation

Amalia Deloney
Associate Director
Center for Media Justice

Amina Fazlullah
Public Policy Counsel
Benton Foundation

Margaret McCarthy
Professional Staff Member
Office of Congressman Henry A. Waxman

Harold Feld
Legal Director
Public Knowledge

Event Time and Location

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 9:00am - 12:00pm
New America Foundation
1899 L Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

Event Materials

Event Photos

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