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Lorrie Faith Cranor

Lorrie Faith Cranor is a Principal Technical Staff Member in the Secure Systems Research Department at AT&T Labs-Research.

Titles by This Editor

Institutional Responses to New Communications Technologies

The contributors to this volume examine issues raised by the intersection of new communications technologies and public policy in this post-boom, post-bust era. Originally presented at the 30th Research Conference on Communication, Information, and Internet Policy (TPRC 2002)—traditionally a showcase for the best academic research on this topic—their work combines hard data and deep analysis to explore the dynamic interplay between technological development and society.

The chapters in the first section consider the ways society conceptualizes new information technologies and their implications for law and policy, examining the common metaphor of "cyberspace as place," alternative definitions of the Internet, the concept of a namespace, and measures of diffusion. The chapters in the second section discuss how technological change may force the rethinking of legal rights; topics considered include spectrum rights, intellectual property, copyright and "paracopyright," and the abridgement of constitutional rights by commercial rights in ISP rules. Chapters in the third and final section examine the constant adjustment and reinterpretation of regulations in response to technological change, considering, among other subjects, liability regimes for common carriers and the 1996 detariffing rule, privacy and enhanced 911, and the residual effect of state ownership on privatized telecommunication carriers. The policy implications of Rethinking Rights and Regulations are clear: major institutional changes may be the necessary response to major advances in telecommunications technology.

Promises, Problems, Prospects

New technologies, although developed with optimism, often fall short of their predicted potential and create new problems. Communications technologies are no different. Their utopian proponents claim that universal access to advanced communications technologies can help to feed the hungry, cure the sick, educate the illiterate, improve the global standard of living, and ultimately bring about world peace. The sobering reality is that while communications technologies have a role to play in making the world a better place, the impact of any specific technological advance is likely to be modest.

The limitations of new technologies are often not inherent in the technologies themselves but the result of regulatory or economic constraints. While the capability may exist to deliver any information anywhere in the world, many people lack the money to pay for it, the equipment to access it, the skills to use it, or even the knowledge that it might be useful to them. This book examines the complex ways in which communication technologies and policies affect the people whose lives they are intended to improve. The areas of discussion include Internet regulation, electronic voting and petitioning, monopoly and competition in communications markets, the future of wireless communications, and the concept of universal service.