November 04, 2005

Panel will assess telecommunications laws

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- An expert in communication law and public policy will lead a Southern Illinois University Carbondale panel discussion on the Bush Administration's track record in that arena.

Alan Pearce, president and CEO of Information Age Economics Inc., will moderate "Telecommunications Law and Economics under the Bush Administration: A Washington Insider's View." The discussion, set for 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 7, is free and open to the public.

Panelists include Manjunath Pendakur, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts; Mike Lawrence, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute; and Mark Schultz, assistant professor at the School of Law.

Michael Botein, a distinguished University visiting professor at the School of Law who is helping organize the forum, said several compelling topics are among those on the table.

The so-called "unbundling" issue, which involves how much long distance companies pay to use local network exchanges, has been before the U.S. Supreme Court three times during the past few years, Botein said. The issue, which is still in dispute, affects those companies' profitability and the rates consumers pay for long distance.

Another debate involves whether the Federal Communications Commission or any governmental agency should begin regulation of the Internet. Currently there is no such regulation in place, Botein said.

Other likely topics include the crackdown by the FCC on indecency and a movement that would allow broadcast companies to reach more viewers, which might potentially drive out smaller broadcasters and decrease diversity in programming.

Pearce formed his company in March 1978 after a senior level policy career in the U.S. government from 1970 to 1978. During his time in government, he worked in top positions at the FCC, overseeing economic policy research and early policies that encouraged the convergence of computers and communications. He also oversaw the investigation of AT&T, which led to the company's eventual break-up.

Pearce also worked for the U.S. House of Representatives as an economist and the Executive Office of the President as chief economist and senior policy advisor. In his current role, Pearce's company provides services to telecommunications, wireless, satellite, cable TV, movie and program production companies and broadcast corporations, among others. His clients span the globe.

Developing citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.