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Words from Charlie

With rapid developments in network and digital technologies— particularly with respect to digital platforms—concerns over consumer trust, use of data and the diffusion of broadband infrastructure and services have emerged as preeminent policy issues. These concerns highlight the importance of timely and comprehensive communications policy regulation. As digital infrastructures mature, how should decision- makers develop policies that promote investment, competition and consumer protection? And which agencies are best able to do so?

In short, federal, state and local governments face conflicts on which entities should regulate digital technologies and in what ways. The 33rd Annual Aspen Institute Conference on Communications Policy, which took place August 12-15, 2018, sought to provide guidance. It explored regulatory structures to create incentives for the deployment of communications infrastructure to unserved areas, and ways to promote competition and protect consumers on the internet. The Conference ultimately examined federalism in the field of communications—which government institutions should manage the evolving technologies and services.

The resulting report, written by rapporteur Carol Mattey, offers ten recommendations that provide guidance for regulation of communications technologies and services on the horizon. Mattey begins by addressing the fractured array of polices and standards for communications infrastructures, and then provides a brief case study on strategies to promote access to broadband in one particular state, Minnesota. This approach highlights the challenges and successes of public-private partnerships and of measuring the impact of government interventions in promoting broadband infrastructure. Mattey then details a number of recommendations from the group for improving the regulatory landscape.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the entities represented in this conference who have also contributed to the Communications and Society Program. They are Microsoft, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Charter, Google, National Association of Broadcasters, New Street Research, T-Mobile, Verizon, Walt Disney and Emmis.

I also want to thank Carol Mattey, our rapporteur, for her extensive and informative account of the conference discussions and our participants for their contributions to these complicated topics. Finally, I want to thank Dominique Harrison, Senior Project Manager, for producing the conference and editing this report.

Charles M. Firestone
Executive Director
Communications and Society Program
The Aspen Institute
March 2019

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