Public Airwaves  
The Future of Broadcasting  

Broadcast signals are carried over airwaves - also known as spectrum - an electromagnetic field in our atmosphere that is one of our most valuable natural resources. Although the airwaves are a public asset, they are licensed to commercial entities that have come to assume “ownership,” leaving less and less broadcast space as a public resource. One estimate puts the current market value of spectrum at $750 billion. As broadcast signals become digital (a federal mandate), the potential for transmitting vast amounts of data and interactivity, along with television and radio signals, adds new value to spectrum. Public interest advocates fear a commercial “land grab” for a resource that is publicly owned, unless policy reform is enacted.

The future of broadcasting is at stake. More than its monetary value, spectrum enables free speech and creative expression, values that are fundamental to democracy. New forms of wireless media and communications - that make use of unlicensed spectrum - are providing exciting opportunities for communities to own and operate media infrastructures. But Wi-Fi infrastructures that are community owned or municipally operated are threatened by private telecommunications companies that are working to influence regulation of spectrum in order to protect commercial interests, not citizens' rights. Digital broadcasting is forcing the current system to undergo reform, but the question is how - and who - will benefit?

Now is the time, as I say, to reclaim the First Amendment, to take it away from the broadcasters and return it to the people, the citizens in their communities.

Mark Cooper Consumer Federation of America

The content of this page was extracted from a funder briefing entitled, "The Public Airwaves as a Common Asset and a Public Good: Implications for the Future of Broadcasting and Community Development in the U.S." hosted by the Ford Foundation and organized by Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media's Working Group on Electronic Media Policy and co-sponsored by Environmental Grantmakers Association, Innovation Funders Network, Grantmakers in the Arts, and the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers. The content was adapted from a report written by Neil F. Carlson

DOWNLOAD the complete summary report  or the complete transcripts of the convening.

  1. Introduction
  2. Community Wireless & Community Building
  3. Tribal Digital Village
  4. Taking Back the Airwaves
  5. Municipal Broadband
  6. Creating Spectrum Policy
  7. Shaping the Wireless Future
  8. New Platforms for Independent Media
  9. Building Constituencies
10. Broadband Policy in Indian Country
11. Conclusion
12. Bios of Participants

Spectrum as Ocean

Current spectrum policy is predicated on the technical limitations of traditional analog broadcast signals, argues Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America .  Signal interference through primitive analog technologies created the need to grant exclusive licenses for airwaves and enforced the idea that there was a scarcity of spectrum. This in turn has driven up the market value of the spectrum, something Cooper believes has had a devastating effect on the constitutional rights inherent in the public airwaves. “The airwaves are not an asset, and speech is not a commodity,” he says.

You have to get that 20th century concept out of your heads and adopt a 21st century concept, or maybe an 18th century concept, which is where our Constitution was born.

With digital technology, the space of spectrum expands tremendously, if not infinitely as some technologists believe. Cooper likens spectrum to the ocean because it creates an image of a vast commons that is limited much more by the technologies we use to navigate it than by the water itself. “Spectrum is like an ocean, only it's a lot bigger than the ocean. And actually technology can make it bigger and bigger and bigger,” says Cooper. This is one of the reasons Cooper believes exclusive licenses are unfair, if not unconstitutional. The policy of granting exclusive licenses has led to the notion of spectrum as property, a kind of de facto ownership of licensed space. Cooper finds this idea antithetical to what spectrum actually is:

"Think about it. NBC never invested in spectrum, they simply got the opportunity to use it, and they invested in a series of transmitters and supported the purchase of receivers. They never did anything to add value to the spectrum itself. They made their own private investments. So that is absolutely critical to remember."
One of the more controversial aspects of spectrum policy is how to protect public interest obligations, a vague set of FCC mandates that require broadcasters to air programming that serves the public. Advocates straddle the fence on whether public interest obligations should be strengthened or whether they have become obsolete. Cooper believes that once the potential of spectrum is better utilized by digital technologies, exclusive licenses will be unconstitutional and public interest airwaves will be abundantly available. In the meantime, the broadcasters owe the public more than they have offered. Going back to the ocean analogy, Cooper puts it like this:
"Over the past 75 years, the fact that they had these huge exclusive lanes enabled them to build aircraft carriers with immense amounts of firepower with which to assault public opinion."
The important thing to remember is that we are in a media transition that will have powerful impact on the public. Cooper draws a comparison to radio and television, which each took about 30 years to gain dominance in the media. With the Internet only 10 years old, its explosive growth is only the beginning. But policies are falling into place and need to be confronted now. Cooper believes the broadcasters are faltering on how to monetize all the digital channels that have become available. “They want to keep [the channels], and they don't know how to make money. And they keep begging for different ways to do it.”

But even more important than the failures of the broadcasters is the potential of Wi-Fi, which makes use of what was called the junk bands that nobody wanted.
"Here is an unlicensed space, a pure commons, that has proven exactly the fact that we don't need centralized investment or control to exploit the ocean. We simply need to liberate people to actually use it by making the investment that they want and need to speak. And that scares the heck out of the people who want to propertize it. They simply can't deal with the fact that the best example of a commons is right under their nose."

Community Wireless & Community Building
Broadband Access & Urban Redevelopment

Randal Pinkett is president and CEO of BCT Partners, a New Jersey-based development consulting firm that specializes in the use of technology in low-income and underserved communities. Exciting opportunities have developed in recent years through policies in 29 states and the District of Columbia that either require broadband infrastructure as a part of low-income housing development or provide public incentives for developers to include broadband infrastructure in publicly funded housing. The convergence of economics and policy, Pinkett says, “opens up an entirely new realm of opportunity when we think about affordable housing.”

Camfield Estates, a 102-unit low-income housing development in Roxbury, Massachusetts,that enhance community resources. Providing Camfield residents with computers, computer training, and wireless netwoork broadband, Pinkett's organization has had a positive impact on numerous fronts. Wireless infrastructures have become inexpensive alternatives to the costly infrastructure of cable and telephone wiring. For low-income communities, wireless often allows residents online access for free. In Camfield Estates, one project involved mapping community resources and helping residents to connect to and share resources. Computer training provides practical skills that translate into job skills, and now Camfield has a Cisco Network Academy.

For Pinkett, it's essential to connect the benefits of technology to literacy, employment, and social programs of all kinds:

"Good community wireless projects, or maybe even good community technology projects nowadays, unlike the nineties, do not define themselves that way. They define themselves as health programs, as workforce development programs, etc., and the technology is a tool to lead to those outcomes. That wasn't the case 10 years ago."

Tribal Digital Village
Reconnecting Tribes in Southern California

For over a century, the three original Native American tribes of San Diego County have been splintered among 18 reservations, dividing family lines, friendships, and cultures. Since 2001, the county's tribal communities have been reconnecting through the Southern California Tribal Digital Village
a high-speed wireless Internet network. It is an ambitious project, says Matthew Rantanen, the Tribal Digital Village's director of technology and Web services:

"We support 65 community buildings on 18 different reservations, and 14 tribal administration buildings are included in that.  What that does for the tribal administrations is it allows them to reconnect the three original tribes that were in San Diego County as they were prior to the reservation movement."

Built under the aegis of the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association, a nonprofit consortium of reservation leaders, the Tribal Digital Village was launched with a $5 million grant from Hewlett-Packard with technology support from the University of California, San Diego. Designed, owned, and operated by the sovereign nations, the Tribal Digital Village is equal parts community organizing and technology infrastructure. Relay towers and backbone nodes shoot wireless signals from point to point within and among the reservations. And because the network was built on tribal land, Rantanen explains, the cost is low. There are no city or county building codes to contend with, and no one has to pay rent for placing a node on a relay tower. When the project was starting up, the tribes' young people conducted the site surveys, heading out into the mountains with global positioning units and topographical maps to find the best places to site relay towers. Later, they learned to program and manage Web sites. “We're taking the youth into this because we know that the youth is our future,” says Rantanen.

There's a technology gap. So when the Indian kid goes home to do his report and he comes back to school and it's handwritten and there's a picture taped to it, versus high technology, access to Internet, all the resources you can get, all the photos you can get, and printed out on nice color printers. We had to fix that. We had to bring those two things together. Where everybody else had this benefit, these kids need this benefit.

Residents have discovered numerous resources, using the Internet to apply for federal grants, to petition the Environmental Protection Agency against the long history of pollution from the outside, and to learn fading tribal languages have found new life as the language preservation movement has gone online. Network training and educational resources are preparing residents for high-paying jobs. Even more essential, the network provides basic phone service where utilities have failed to provide it. “For the tribal communities, it allows them to take control of their futures and not be dependent on what does or does not exist for rural underserved communities.” It's a model that is having worldwide impact, says Rantanen:

"The U.S. FCC took the example of Tribal Digital Village to the Geneva Wireless Summit a few years ago and used that to say, 'Keep unlicensed spectrum in the world because this is what you can do with it.' And the African vote swung the world decision, and they changed their vote because it was very similar situations, tribal situations, where people had been separated, where they wanted to reopen lines of communication. And there was unlicensed spectrum at the world level using a local example from little southern California.

Taking Back the Airwaves
From Community Radio to Community Wireless

Prometheus Radio Project 
has made a name for itself over the past decade as an FCC gadfly and a leading advocate of low power FM (LPFM) community radio. In the late 1990s, Prometheus Radio emerged from the “pirate radio” movement - spectrum activists setting up LPFM stations without a broadcast license. These acts of civil disobedience, combined with vigorous grassroots activism, persuaded the FCC to extend broadcast licenses to over 400 low power FM stations around the country - although not in urban areas. Since the FCC policy victory in 2000, Prometheus Radio has focused on “radio barnraisings” - organizing communities, training volunteers, and setting up stations in just three days.

Prometheus is now applying its barnraising model to community broadband projects. “We've learned over the years that barnraisings work,” explains Hannah Sassaman , Prometheus Radio's program director. “They are able to develop long-term successful support locally for a station, and they create a hotbed of policy organizers.”

Prometheus Radio recently began working with residents in North Lawndale, a poor, largely African-American community in Chicago. The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a local nonprofit, had established a pilot network that provided 20 families with high-speed Internet. In June 2004, a barnraising put up 50 repeater nodes, creating a mesh network and bringing access to the entire community.  Sassaman points out the obstacles communities like North Lawndale face, and the desire to overcome them:

"Over 55% of the community's residents have interacted in some way with the criminal justice system. There's high unemployment, and 45% of the households are below the poverty line. And SBC, the local incumbent broadband community provider for things like DSL, is charging incredibly high prices to families and businesses that want to get online. And so members of this community in conversations with the Center for Neighborhood Technology determined that they wanted to build a community Internet network that they could control, that would benefit them."

The network is helping to solve community problems, create opportunity, and bring residents together. For instance, when the City of Chicago shut down bus lines that served North Lawndale, college and high school students were left without reliable transportation. Lacking broadband connections, they faced arduous commutes to get online. Now they have instant access. And through the Crib Collective and Street Level Youth Media - both local nonprofits - young people are creating music, local news, and other creative content, which is distributed over the Internet. Though a partnership with the North Lawndale Employment Network, a nonprofit that provides job training and placement for ex-offenders, residents are trained to build and troubleshoot the network. Another nonprofit will use the Internet to support childcare and GED classes.

North Lawndale's community wireless network also has important policy implications. “CNT and the folks in North Lawndale have already been incredibly successful in using their community model to influence the City of Chicago as it chooses and plans to pursue wireless,” Sassaman emphasizes. Residents have been active in meeting with officials, and the city has agreed to a task force to explore the issue more fully. It is this bottom-up approach to wireless policy and community development that can impact national policy. “If you have a big outpouring of energy with a lot of community members coming in, and a big press push, and a lot of policy folks coming down, it can really raise the momentum level,” Sassaman says.

"Because digital broadcasting is the future, we want to work with communities who want to get onto this spectrum now, so when corporations try to claim it there's someone already there. We want to squat this spectrum, and when government tries to regulate it, there will be incredibly just cause in regulating in favor of us, in favor of our communities."

Municipal Broadband
San Francisco's Wireless Future

When San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission held open hearings on a proposal for municipal broadband service, Commissioner Adam Werbach received an e-mail leak from a local business group with the headline, “Socialists Seize San Francisco.” But Werbach, the former executive director of the Sierra Club and Common Assets Defense Fund, worried about embarrassing the mayor, soon realized the commission was on the right track. “As soon as people start over-dramatizing what we're doing here - talking about building a municipal broadband network, getting the public sector to expand rather than contract - they'll begin to lose.”

The hearing proved the point. When a representative from the Chamber of Commerce tried to convince the commission that a city-run wireless system was bad for business, a member of the commission asked how many of those businesses actually provide high-speed Internet services. “Well, two,” came the answer. “And how many of them would benefit from free or low-cost wireless?” the commissioner asked. “Well, we have 18,000 members,” she replied. The commissioner continued, “Then maybe its time to ask them what they think.” The plan for municipal wireless broadband was approved, a project that ensures equal access, which is currently a problem, says Werbach.

"In San Francisco you cannot get a high-speed wireless connection in Bay Shore or Hunters Point, the largely African-American neighborhoods in the city.  This will make that happen first."

Werbach expects the incumbent Internet providers to launch a vigorous campaign to undercut the plan and points to lessons learned in the environmental movement.  First, the dire rhetoric of economic ruin reveals the fundamental weakness of the commercial Internet providers.

"If it's true that they are overreaching, it is time now to think big and start small. Think globally; act locally. It's these individual projects all over the place that are actually just going to take the market."

Second, municipal wireless service needs to be equal to or better than that provided by the private sector. “Can the public sector do as well or better as the private sector? We cannot be an inferior choice.” And third, incumbent providers have already convinced 14 states to pass laws limiting municipal broadband and will push similar laws elsewhere.

"If we win, and if we continue moving forward, it will be extraordinary. If we slow or falter right now, the opportunities that present themselves today will be forever foreclosed."

Creating Spectrum Policy
The Moment Is Now

Harold Feld is associate director of the public interest law firm Media Access Project.  His mantra for this seemingly complex issue is simple: Don't get bogged down in the details. “This is how the incumbents win, because they make this look like it's so complicated and it's such a tough problem, and we get divided and we start looking at different solutions.”

For Feld, the first challenge is to get people to care about this issue. Freeing up spectrum would unleash a new wave of technology innovation in consumer electronics and software. “The Intel guys go in and make this case. Microsoft makes this case,” Feld says. “For me, it comes down to good jobs at good wages. That's what I always say when people [in corporate circles] ask me what this is about.” Feld argues that legislators and potential corporate allies need an economic angle, though he believes social justice and First Amendment empowerment is at the core of spectrum policy:

"Where people can directly speak through the airwaves, they should be allowed to do so. The fact that it has spin-offs for economic development, the fact that it has spin-offs for civic engagement and other things are also part and parcel of the promise of free speech."

One hotly contested area is spectrum auctions, where airwave licenses are sold by the federal government with the idea that the revenue generated will go back to the public. Feld adamantly opposes them. “Spectrum auctions are the crack cocaine of public policy,” he says. “Do not take a hit on that pipe. You get one hit of those revenues and you sell your future for a bunch of magic beans.” Putting 5% of auction revenues into a public interest media trust fund is poor compensation for the loss of access. “This is not a fairy tale and the bean pod doesn't grow up to a golden goose in the sky,” he continued. “You're left with a bunch of pea plants and the rest of these guys are living off the rest of the farm.”

On a strategic level, Feld argues that advocates need facts and stories from local communities:

"Policy is made by human beings, another one of my big aphorisms. People respond to these stories.  They respond to the facts on the ground.  Congress responds to their constituents.  And no matter how big your war chest is, every congressman knows [that] at the end of the day he needs votes."

There is also a tremendous need for studies and intellectual support - engineers to address technical issues, lawyers to file policy briefs, sociologists to track the impact of community wireless. “When we're right, we should say it, and we should say it in the most effective way possible,” Feld says. He believes this is an urgent battle. He stresses that the United States is influencing policies throughout the world.

"The major battles are going to be fought in the next five years.  Everything after that is quibbling about the details.  If we lose, our descendants will not forgive us and they will be right."

Shaping the Wireless Future
Managing the Transition to Digital Television

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 gave television broadcasters 10 years to convert to digital television with the promise that 18 prime analog channels would be offered to the public. Ensuring that these new public channels are well utilized is an enormous challenge.  The risk is that they, too, could become privatized.  Michael Calabrese, vice president of the progressive think tank the New America Foundation and director of their Spectrum Policy Program, says this is a major battle:

The essential and still ongoing struggle has been to stop the effort by the current FCC to effectively strip the word “public” from airwaves, to convert temporary licenses into permanent private property, ownership of spectrum.

The New America Foundation has been a leading force in the Digital Future Initiative, an effort to capture some of the revenues from spectrum auctions - a step many advocates abhor, but which Calabrese sees as inevitable - and use them to support noncommercial media. Congress is currently considering a bill that would earmark at least $1 billion in spectrum revenue for a consumer assistance fund to pay for digital-to-analog converter boxes for the 15 million households that still rely on analog broadcasts. “We want to expand this consumer converter fund to create a trust to help finance the multicast future of public broadcasting and noncommercial content more generally,” Calabrese says.

Another goal is to roll back exclusive licensing so spectrum can be reallocated to community wireless and affordable broadband. The New America Foundation would like to see a dedicated band for unlicensed access once channels 52 to 69 are returned. (Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell already agreed to a proposal that would open empty channels below 52 to unlicensed access.) Calabrese sees phenomenal potential with the new capacity and interactivity of pubic digital channels, far beyond television broadcast:

"Free and open access to wireless networks will create platforms for individual expression, creativity, and political discourse, every bit as much as the unregulated printing presses did in the era of Tom Paine and Ben Franklin.  It will be that radical a change.  And open access community wireless networks will be the essential check and balance that prevents the owners of the fiber pipes from controlling the distribution of content and turning potentially creative netizens into consumers of one-way advotainment."

New Platforms for Independent Media
Supporting Public Interest Content

Jeff Chester , executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, sees an unprecedented opportunity to reinvent public interest media through the numerous digital systems - cable, fiber optic networks, and wireless broadband -- that are emerging. Chester believes emerging digital platforms have the potential to bring new revenues to public interest content providers. “Not only can they make a living, which is a good thing, but more importantly we'll be able to create more content.” But there are challenges.

Corporations have invested billions of dollars to deliver individually tailored interactive content to consumers, such as software that analyzes consumer purchases on and uses the data to recommend other products. Interactive capability allows for one-to-one marketing. “Now what's going to fill up most of this capacity, from a [commercial] basis, is what I call digital drek,” he says. Digital television is “designed to facilitate the needs of advertisers and marketers to more effectively target individuals and discreet demographic groups, not only for the sell, but for what they call lifelong branding.” Chester pointed to Rupert Murdoch's NDS, a company that helps content providers integrate video, advertising, and interactive media, allowing them to engage in what Murdoch calls “monetizing interactivity.”

Chester argues that noncommercial providers can use the same systems to create what he calls the “one-to-one marketing of democracy.”

"I want people looking back 10 years from now to see [that] public interest content, broadly defined, was part of these systems, whether it was [a] cable or telephone company or Internet or wireless, from the very beginning."

Good models are already out there for realizing an alternative digital future. Chester points to the British Broadcasting Company's charter review, underway since 2003, for digital media platforms. “What the British have done well is to articulate a broad public service media vision for civil society, for education, for inclusion, that takes advantage of the expanded landscape.”

Chester also believes there is great potential for public interest media to generate sustainable revenue.  He looks to On Demand television, a pay-as-you-go system for delivering content over cable and satellite networks. Profits could underwrite free distribution over public broadcasting systems and other venues for those who cannot afford to pay for content.

Chester urges activists and advocates to make a business case for public interest media and opportunities for pipelines that can support independently produced content. “We have to bring the content providers together. We have to work with the technologists who are working with innovative approaches to video distribution to program this new network,” he says.

"We need to be there, and indeed I intend to be part of an initiative that's going to do that. Because unless we create this public interest infrastructure…we won't be making the kind of contribution our country needs."

Building Constituencies
Framing the Issues for Public Engagement

Josh Silver is executive director of Free Press, a media policy organization he founded in 2002 with media scholar Robert McChesney and journalist John Nichols. Silver is focused on building large constituencies for media democracy.

"How do you get, not thousands, but millions of people to care?  How do you get them to care enough to hold a house party at their house, or call their legislator, or send an e-mail, or write an op-ed piece?  How do you get them to do the very same things that other successful movements, like the environmental movement, have managed to get tens of millions of people to do?"

According to Silver, Free Press has managed to persuade roughly 150,000 people to take action on media policy issues. “But those numbers, from our group and from others, need to expand into the millions, and it needs to happen soon.” Silver believes that the public responds deeply to large media scandals - commentator Armstrong Williams taking nearly $250,000 from the Department of Education to shill for the Bush administration's education policies; the Republican owners of Sinclair Broadcasting airing Stolen Honor, the anti-Kerry propaganda film, as news; a faux news correspondent from Talon News lobbing softball questions to President Bush at White House press conferences. Silver says these high-profile cases are the kinds of hooks that can draw the public into media policy issues.

“The only way we're going to win is if we get the public highly engaged locally throughout the country, in addition to doing good policy work in Washington,” Silver says. “People have to take up their own initiatives in their own communities.” One strategy is to respond to government and industry initiatives that threaten public interest media. For instance, recently a Verizon lobbyist sent trade journalists a memorandum knocking the success of community wireless. “It was patently untrue, yet these guys are doing this stuff all the time,” Silver says. “We need to respond quickly.”    

However, Silver believes that, in the long run, public interest media advocates need strong, convincing positions that can drive policy and not just react to big media.  

"How do we create ways of framing the debate so that we cannot just respond to the opposition's rhetoric but actually preempt it and frame the debate in our terms rather than their terms? If we do that, we can win."

Broadband Policy in Indian Country
Sovereign Nations Going Digital

For the 4 million Native Americans living on and off reservations today, telecommunications reform is a matter of life and death. Just 67% of homes have telephone access, compared with a national average of 95%. Only 15% of reservation households have Internet access, and basic services such as 911 are lacking for many in the 562 federally recognized tribes. “What that means is that people are literally dying waiting for an ambulance to get to them,” says Marcia Warren Edelman , president of the Native Networking Policy Center and an enrolled member of the Santa Clara Pueblo of New Mexico.  Edelman says the issue for Indian country is access.

"We weren't at the table for the re-write of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, but we have an opportunity to really be involved as policy is being formed, and we are taking that opportunity and running with it."

Bureau of Indian Affairs schools and Indian Health Service clinics have Internet access, but they are only open during business hours. “We need to be part of this digital economy,” Edelman stresses. “We need to be part of our digital democracy.” Because sovereign Indian nations enjoy unique access to government regulators and policymakers, the Native Networking Policy Center is in a good position to affect policy. Working with the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest tribal representative group in the United States, Edelman's group formed the Native Networking Coalition to ensure Native American concerns are addressed in the upcoming re-write of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

"We have the federal government-to-government relationship, which tribes as sovereign nations are guaranteed through the Constitution of the United States. So we've always dealt with the federal government on a peer-to-peer basis. We go to D.C. We meet with Congress. We meet with the federal agencies. And that's what we are accustomed to, and that's what we demand."

One challenge is to mobilize Native American constituents to demand better telecommunications policies for Indian country. “So we're dealing on an educational level all the way from local to national,” says Edelman. “We don't propose to tell them how to use the technology or even suggest technology to use. It's up to them as sovereign nations to do that. What we want to do is provide information. We want to be a hub of information.”  

Another challenge is the lack of studies on telecommunications, information technology, and media in Indian country. In 1998, the Benton Foundation commissioned Edelman to write a report about the use of technology in Indian country, Native Networking: Telecommunications and Information in Indian Country.  

"When I started that research I was sure that I would find information out there on the state of telecommunications access in Indian country.  I did not.  I found one report from the Office of Technology Assessment, which no longer exists, and maybe two or three other examples of at least some telephone penetration rates, but not much.  There was nothing out there." 

Little has changed. Census figures regarding technology need to be updated so policy has a sound empirical foundation. Edelman believes this is crucial. “We need to build the public record.”  

"What we envision is that tribes will have access. We have no other alternative. We must. We can't be left behind. Our individuals are at stake, our communities at stake, our cultures are at stake. That's why we care, and that's how we're going to make it happen."

Expanding the Public Airwaves

Wireless networks on unlicensed spectrum are transforming community development and civic participation in urban communities, in Indian country, and in places throughout the world. And that has been on so-called “junk bands” - slices of spectrum with limited capacity. Imagine the innovation that could be unleashed if prime spectrum - the stronger frequencies now used for radio and television broadcasting - were freed up.

The future of broadcasting is one in which media and communications technologies converge, creating a dynamic exchange of programs, information, and services. Urgent policy issues that could have dramatic impact on the future of public interest media are imminent. With support and dedication, advocates believe the media future can be one that serves the public interest, protects free speech rights, and gives people equal access to information and technology resources that can enhance lives and communities and foster economic, educational, and cultural development.

Bios of Participants

Michael Calabrese (Washington, D.C.) is vice president of the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan policy institute in Washington, D.C. As director of the Spectrum Policy Program (, Calabrese oversees the Foundation's efforts to improve our nation's management of publicly owned assets,  particularly the radio frequency spectrum. Calabrese is the co-author of three previous books on policy and politics and has published opinion articles in the nation's leading outlets, including the Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times.

Jeff Chester (Washington, D.C.) is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, or CDD, (, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit ensuring that digital media serve the public interest. In the 1980s, Chester led the national campaign that prompted the creation by Congress of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) for PBS. In 1990, he co-founded the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, which focused on protecting artists' rights. The following year he created Ralph Nader's Teledemocracy Project on cable TV reform. In 1992, Chester co-founded and served as executive director (until 2000) of the Center for Media Education, a leading force on such issues as Internet privacy, media ownership, and children's TV. At CDD Chester has co-led the two-year campaign against proposals by the media industries and FCC Chairman Powell to eliminate critical ownership safeguards. His work helped generate unprecedented public support opposing the Big Media lobby. Chester has also campaigned to maintain the Internet's open and nondiscriminatory architecture, through work in the press, Congress, and in the courts.

Mark Cooper (Washington, D.C.) is director of research at the Consumer Federation of America ( and a fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society (, the Columbia Institute on Tele-information (, and the Donald McGannon Communications Research Center at Fordham University ( . Cooper has written extensively on digital society and telecommunications issues, as well as provided expert testimony on telecommunications and energy policy in over 250 cases for public-interest clients including Attorneys General, People's Counsels, and citizen interveners before state and federal agencies, courts and legislators, in almost four dozen jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada.

Marcia Warren Edelman (Reston, VA) is an enrolled member of the Santa Clara Pueblo of New Mexico and serves as president for the Native Networking Policy Center ( She is a co-founder of the organization.  Most recently, she served as the president of her own consulting firm, Sweet Moose Enterprises LLC, providing consulting services in the areas of Native American policy, economic development, and telecommunications and information technology to Native organizations and the federal government. 

Harold Feld (Washington, D.C.) is  associate director of the Media Access Project (, a nonprofit public-interest law firm working to ensure a public voice in telecommunications policy. He is the primary author of many of the current public-interest filings on spectrum proceedings at the FCC. He joined MAP in August 1999 after practicing communications, Internet, and energy law at Covington & Burling. From 2002 to 2003, he served on the ICANN Names Council as representative of the Noncommercial Constituency, and he currently serves as the Noncommercial Constituency representative to the Advisory Committee of the Public Interest Registry.

David Haas (Philadelphia, PA) is chair of the steering committee of Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media (, an association of grantmakers committed to advancing the field of media arts and public-interest funding, which serves as home to the Working Group on Electronic Media Policy. In addition, Haas serves on the board of the William Penn Foundation (, a regional grantmaker focusing on the greater Philadelphia area, and as a Trustee of the Phoebe Haas Charitable Trust "B," which supports a range of 501(c)3 charitable organizations, including media projects. From 1989 to 1997, Haas worked as coordinator of the Philadelphia Independent Film/Video Association (PIFVA), a service organization for independent film-, video, and audio makers based in the greater Philadelphia area.

Becky Lentz (New York, NY) is program officer for Electronic Media Policy at the Ford Foundation ( that capacity, Lentz directs a three-year initiative called "Reclaiming the Public Interest in Electronic Media Policy in the U.S.," which focuses on seeding the development of a “field” of sustainable institutions, organizations, coalitions, and networks that can advance the public interest over the long term. As a practitioner, advocate, and academic, Lentz brings to Ford more than 20 years of combined experience in the information services industry, state and local government, the nonprofit sector, and most recently in academia.

Alyce Myatt (New York, NY) is a multimedia consultant providing analysis and strategic planning services for independent media organizations and the philanthropic community. Chief among her clients are the Center for Digital Democracy (, a media policy organization; MediaWorks, a media funder network; and Free Speech TV (, a 24-hour progressive television network. Other recent clients include OneWorld TV (, Emerson College, TVE Brazil (, the Heinz Endowments (, Roundtable Media (, and the Annie E. Casey ( and Skillman foundations ( Prior to her return to consulting, Myatt served as vice president of programming for PBS. She also was program officer for media at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (, where she administered grantmaking for documentary film and television, community outreach related to media, community-based media arts centers, and public radio. Preceding her work at the Foundation, Myatt was president of her own consulting firm, providing program development services, strategic planning, and brand management to a variety of clients in television, radio, and multimedia.

Randal Pinkett (Newark, NJ) is the president and CEO of BCT Partners (, a management, technology, and policy consulting firm that works with nonprofit organizations, including community development corporations, foundations, and government agencies, to improve organizational effectiveness and support strategies for change.  BCT specializes in the following industries/sectors: housing and community development, community and nonprofit technology, health, education, and e-government.   BCT is a minority-owned and operated company and one of the leading firms in the country with expertise in the use of technology in low-income and underserved communities.  A nationally recognized expert in the strategic use of technology, Pinkett has corporate experience as a member of the technical staff at General Electric, AT&T Bell Laboratories, and Lucent Technologies  

Matthew Rantanen (San Diego, CA) is director of technology and Web services for the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association ( and the Tribal Digital Village ( He  is also launching Southern California Tribal Technologies, a for-profit venture to support broadband wireless Internet connectivity to the individual home on the Indian reservations of southern California. Previously, Rantanen was a Web designer and artist for Blue Mountain Arts,, and Excite@Home. He is a descendant of the Cree Indian Nation, with ancestors from Finland and Scandinavia.

Hannah Sassaman (Philadelphia, PA)is program director at Prometheus Radio Project (, where she builds partnerships, coordinates outreach, and manages volunteers. Most recently, Sassaman has been coordinating public participation in the FCC Localism Task Force ( hearings. In San Antonio, TX, she helped to get almost 500 individuals from all over Texas to testify on how to make the media more local. Sassaman works to build coalitions between existing media justice and media democracy groups and a wide range of allies for a more diverse global media system; she has built partnerships on media issues with groups as diverse as Latino environmental arts groups and Christian community ministries and broadcasters. Sassaman has published articles in Clamor magazine and is interviewed regularly for local, national, and international publications.

Josh Silver (Northampton, MA) is executive director of Free Press (, which he co-founded with Robert McChesney and John Nichols in 2002 to engage broad public participation in media policy debates. Prior to that, he was the campaign manager of the successful ballot initiative for Clean Elections in Arizona, director of development for the cultural arm of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and director of an international youth exchange program. Silver has published extensively on media policy, campaign finance, and other public policy issues.    

Emy Tseng
(San Francisco, CA) is senior policy advisor at the Community Technology Foundation of California (CTFC) ( and managing director of the Innovation Funders Network (IFN) (, a group of funders who support technology for social change. She previously worked at the Ford Foundation on issues of information and communications policy.  Tseng has consulted on technology policy and strategy for a number of public interest and community networking groups including Consumers Union (, NYCwireless (, and LINCOS (Little Intelligent Communities) ( Her previous employment included 12 years in the software industry as an engineer, project manager, and software architect.  

Adam Werbach
(San Francisco, CA) is the founder of Act Now Productions in San Francisco (, a multimedia production and outreach company dedicated to helping nonprofits get their message out through video, music, and the Web. Prior to founding Act Now, he served as executive director of the Common Assets Defense Fund ( and as the 46th president of the Sierra Club (, a position  he was elected to at the ripe old age of 23. Werbach is the author of Act Now, Apologize Later (HarperCollins).