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What is Spectrum?

The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Spectrum Policy (AIRS) is a continuing series of roundtable discussions attended by key decision makers from the telecommunications and information industries, user and consumer groups, academics, non-profit leaders, and representatives from federal, state, and local government. Expert participants from diverse disciplines and viewpoints exchange valuable insights, and develop innovative recommendations regarding spectrum policy.  Previous AIRS topics include: “Preparing for a 5G World,” “Making Waves: Alternative Paths to Flexible Use Spectrum,” “Spectrum for the Wired Network,” “Spectrum as a Resource for Enabling Innovation Policy,” “The Reallocation Imperative: A New Vision for Spectrum Policy,” “Spectrum for the Next Generation of Wireless,” and “Rethinking Spectrum Policy: A Fiber Intensive Wireless Architecture.” Over the years many notable participants, including Dick Green, Reed Hundt, Jon Leibowitz, Yochai Benkler, Eli Noam, Phil Weiser, David Redl, and Thomas Hazlett, and Larry Strickling have attended the Roundtable on Spectrum Policy.

The current Roundtable on Spectrum Policy topic is “Revisiting Spectrum Policy of the National Broadband Plan.”  The Conference is generously supported by the attending sponsors of the 2016 Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program: AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast Corporation, Google, Ligado, Microsoft, New Street Research, T-Mobile, Verizon Communications, and The Walt Disney Company. 

This site displays the report that resulted from the 2016 Roundtable on Spectrum Policy convening that took place in Queenstown, MD, October 26-28.  The series of chapters, written by rapporteur David Bollier, synthesize the ideas that emerged from participants during the two-day dialogue. The report recognizes the importance of fiber and other technologies to the highest and best uses of spectrum.  It also focuses a fair amount on the issues and policies of sharing spectrum, and of flexibility in its use.   It points out the interrelationship of spectrum to many other key communications technologies and policies such as broadband, competition, and public interest benefits.  And it lists the specific recommendations each working group offered, specifically in terms of new technologies such as drones and the Internet of Things, in terms of licensing approaches (licensed, unlicensed and shared), and in terms of the place of US spectrum policy in the global context.

About the Communications and Society Program

The Communications and Society Program is an active venue for framing policies and developing recommendations in the information and communications fields.  We provide a multi-disciplinary space where veteran and emerging decision-makers can develop new approaches and suggestions for communications policy.  The Program enables global leaders and experts to explore new concepts, exchange insights, develop meaningful networks, and find personal growth, all for the betterment of society. 

The Program’s projects range across many areas of information, communications and media policy.  Our activities focus on issues of open and innovative governance, public diplomacy, institutional innovation, broadband and spectrum management, as well as the future of content, issues of race and diversity, and the free flow of digital goods, services and ideas across borders.

Most conferences employ the signature Aspen Institute seminar format: approximately 25 leaders from diverse disciplines and perspectives engaged in roundtable dialogue, moderated with the goal of driving the agenda to specific conclusions and recommendations.  The program distributes our conference reports and other materials to key policymakers, opinion leaders and the public in the United States and around the world.  We also use the internet and social media to inform and ignite broader conversations that foster greater participation in the democratic process.

The Program’s Executive Director is Charles M. Firestone.  He has served in this capacity since 1989 and also as Executive Vice President of the Aspen Institute.  Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Mr. Firestone was a communications attorney and law professor who has argued cases before the United States Supreme Court.  He is a former director of the UCLA Communications Law Program, first president of the Los Angeles Board of Telecommunications Commissioners, and an appellate attorney for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.