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The 2019 Annual Aspen Institute Roundtable on Spectrum (AIRS) Policy convened at a critical moment, though participants could not have known it at the time. When the group met in early December on the bucolic Maryland Eastern Shore, none could have imagined the global upheaval that would come just weeks later in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ensuing global lock-down and shift to home has shined bright light on our spectrum infrastructure and its central role in a functioning civil society.

While the group could not have imagined what was to come, they nonetheless delved into issues highly relevant to today. Specifically, the group focused on the impact of the 2012 report on spectrum policy from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) that suggested spectrum allocation support innovation and technology ventures to advance both economic growth and equity. They delved into the importance of 5G and the race with China. And critically, they focused on the digital divide, a crisis made more acute during the pandemic.

The resulting report, written by rapporteur Ruth Milkman, offers recommendations that address these themes. As you read through the filter of our current global crisis, they only become more relevant.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the organizations represented at this conference that have also contributed financial support to the Aspen Digital Program. They are Google, Microsoft, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, New Street Research, T-Mobile, Verizon, Charter, Dodge and Cox, the National Association of Broadcasters, and EchoStar Corporation.

I also want to thank Ruth Milkman, conference rapporteur, for her informative account of the conference discussions, and our participants for their contributions to these complex issues.

I want to thank Dr. Dominique Harrison, Project Director, for producing the conference and editing this report.

Vivian Schiller
Executive Director
Aspen Digital Program, The Aspen Institute
June 2020

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