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CHAPTER I - Introduction

Advances in communication technologies and the services offered over digital platforms are occurring today at a dizzying pace. Barely a day goes by without some announcement or new development impacting one or more players in the communications ecosystem. We stand on the cusp of a new world, with connectivity promising to transform everyday activities.

While the communications landscape is rapidly changing, the regulatory framework for many key issues remains bifurcated among different players at different levels of government. In a connected nation, traditional norms of federalism are increasingly challenged, and decisions by policymakers have global impact. Policymakers are wrestling with difficult questions of whether and how to manage the ongoing transformation of the communications sector.

Each year, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program convenes a conference on communications policy. It is an opportunity for a diverse group of individuals from major corporations, think tanks, public interest groups, government and academia to discuss the issues of the day and develop recommendations for future action.

The topic for the 33rd Annual Aspen Institute Conference was “Next Generation Digital Infrastructure: Toward a New Regime for Promoting Investment, Competition and Consumer Protection.” The conference focused on three sets of questions: Which institutions, if any, should play a role in managing the emerging ecosystem of networks and services, and in what ways? How should the deployment of communications infra- structure be incentivized? And how can competition be promoted and consumers be protected on the internet? A major focus was federalism in the digital age. Throughout the discussion, the recurring theme was, Who should set the rules of the road?

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