The Future of Digital Communications Research and Policy

By Wallsten, Scott | Federal Communications Law Journal, December 2010 | Go to article overview

The Future of Digital Communications Research and Policy


Wallsten, Scott, Federal Communications Law Journal


"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. "--Niels Bohr

I.  INTRODUCTION
II.  NEEDED: A NEW RESEARCH FOCUS
     A. Is Broadband a General Purpose Technology?
     B. Economic Growth Will Flow Primarily from Business,
     Not Residential, Use
III. WE CANNOT MEASURE THE MOST IMPORTANT EFFECTS OF
     RADICAL NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE SHORT RUN
     A. Research Should Focus on Business and on Fixing
        National Income Accounts

I. INTRODUCTION

Over the past decade, broadband has become nearly ubiquitously available to households and firms throughout the industrialized world. This rapid growth has spurred interest by policymakers and academics in understanding how public policies affect--and, hopefully, encourage-investment and adoption. While such knowledge is useful, it is important to recognize that broadband investment and adoption are only inputs into societal well-being. We are ultimately interested in outputs: how does investment and use affect our standard of living and the economy more broadly?

These questions have become especially timely given recent poor economic growth and high unemployment. In the search for ways to increase economic growth and to "create" jobs, policymakers have identified broadband as a promising policy lever. In particular, they hope that stimulating broadband investment and adoption will accelerate its integration into the economy and translate into economic growth.

II. NEEDED: A NEW RESEARCH FOCUS

The current belief that broadband can address short-term economic concerns has led to a certain degree of incoherence in research and policy discussions about broadband. First, if broadband is a general-purpose technology that has the potential to fundamentally affect the economy, then we must recognize that its benefits will not be distributed evenly. Unfortunately, in the short run, some will lose out in a broadband-connected world.

Second, though policy and research has focused almost exclusively on residential broadband, use in the home is unlikely to be the primary driver of productivity improvements and, thus, radical improvements in our standard of living. Instead, it is how new communications technologies affect business that will affect productivity and determine whether those technologies radically reshape the economy.

Third, if broadband has the potential to fundamentally affect the economy, then those changes are likely to take place over a fairly long time period. Even to the extent that such changes have begun, we do not yet know what to measure to capture those changes.

This Essay begins by discussing, at a broad level, whether broadband and digital communications technology in general are likely to fundamentally affect the nature of the economy. The remainder of the Essay discusses what those effects may be, where they will originate, and how we should think about measuring them. It concludes with suggestions on how to build a more robust foundation for future research on the economic effects of broadband.

A. Is Broadband a General Purpose Technology?

At the core of the idea that broadband can enhance economic growth is the belief that the Internet, and broadband in particular, is a General Purpose Technology (GPT). If that is the case, then it does indeed have the potential to fundamentally alter the nature of the economy, just as electrification did.

To some, it may seem self-evident that broadband is a GPT. After all, it is by now cliche to note that broadband affects the way we work and play--that it has become a ubiquitous presence in our day-to-day lives. Pervasiveness is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a technology to truly become a GPT. Bresnahan and Trajtenberg lay out the full requirements:

   GPTs are characterized by pervasiveness, inherent potential for
   technical improvements, and 'innovational complementarities', . … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Future of Digital Communications Research and Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.