The Catholic University of America


Connected Nation: CommLaw Program Assesses
Near-Term Future of Telecommunications Policy

The growing interconnectivity of Americans though electronic means is a permanent trend, but exactly how it all plays out depends on a number of factors, according to experts. 

The sales surge in smart phones and TVs, tablets, and other wireless devices shows no signs of abating. American consumers love their gadgets and retailers anticipate continued growth in the future.
But regulatory policy and political climate will have some bearing on the future shape and direction of the industry, and that was the subject of “A Telecommunications Agenda for 2012 and Beyond,” an April 11 symposium sponsored by CommLaw Conspectus: Journal of Communications Law & Policy and the Institute for Communications Law Studies at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, in association with the Federal Communications Bar Association.
Hosted by the law firm Wiley Rein at its downtown conference center, the day-long symposium brought together nearly two dozen experts from the telecommunications field to discuss issues such in wireless, wireline, and media from the perspective of industry, government, and other stakeholders, specifically focused on how these issues may be shaped by the election. 
The keynote address was delivered by FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn, who began her talk by acknowledging the influence and presence that Catholic University law school alumni have within her agency, which has long been a magnet for graduates of the law school’s communications law program.
"The influence of Catholic’s law school is literally all around me:in the FCC’s bureaus, front offices, and in telecom subcommittee offices on the Hill," said Clyburn. "Catholic alumni have entrenched themselves so deep within our nation’s powerful organizations, it is almost as if you are attempting to achieve global dominance."
"Perhaps we should write a screenplay and see if any studios would jump at it," she quipped.
Clyburn emphasized the need for all Americans to have affordable broadband access to enjoy its numerous benefits, such as the use of digital books. She also pushed for continued progress on the Communications and Video Accessibility Act.
The six discussants for the day’s first panel, “What’s Next for the Wireless Market?” spent more than an hour prognosticating on what  the next big wave might be for the mobile industry and what policies could affect it.
A major concern to all was the availability of usable spectrum in the market for mobile devices. One expert noted that consumers today expect basic services  from their mobile devices: including video, voice and video data, and fixed location data. All require large amounts of limited bandwidth space, so the group spent some time on the question of spectrum auctions.
Panelists agreed that while the party that captures the White House after the next election may impact the overall telecommunications regulatory climate, the pressing need for more spectrum to accommodate demand by mobile devices is a bipartisan issue.
Another morning panel discussed intercarrier compensation reform and the FCC’s media ownership rules, the latter moderated by Donna Coleman Gregg, director of the law school’s Institute for Communications Law Studies. Gregg's panel included former FCC Commissioners Michael  Copps, Harold Furchtgott-Roth, and Deborah Taylor Tate.
The symposium's luncheon discussion featured newly-appointed FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlshausen in a conversation with Bryan Tramont, managing partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP.
The Columbus School of Law was heavily represented throughout.  Much of the symposium’s organizing was done by Jessica Elder, president of the Communications Law Students Association; and Ian Forbes, editor-in-chief of CommLaw Conspectus (at left). Forbes also moderated the day’s final panel discussion, “Election Year Debate: Alternative Visions of Communications Policy for 2012 and Beyond.”
Other participants included alumni Kathleen Ham, 1986, vice president, federal regulatory, T-Mobile USA; and John Kneuer, 1994, former assistant secretary for communications and information, Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration under President George W. Bush.
A summary paragraph of the symposium appeared in the April 12 edition of Communications Daily.