Policy Studies and Initiatives
Digital communications technologies are having a profound impact on society as they become the basis for national economies. The Center has established various initiatives that focus on public policy studies, in general, addressing policy issues related to large-scale digital communications and technology. The Center has been involved in a wide range of policy projects and initiatives, including those related to national, regional, state, metropolitan, township and international issues. Also, the Center works with the other policy forums, such as the Internet Society, which address public policy issues related to the global Internet community.
Federal Communications Policy
Federal policy topics include many issues related to the transition from traditional modes of communication to new digital services provided through a ubiquitous infrastructure that is "always on" and always available at any location, and, increasingly on any communications device.. In particular, the Center focuses on issues related to the creation of new advanced infrastructure that supports emerging digital communication services. iCAIR has organized presentations on these issues to staff members of the House commerce and judiciary committees. iCAIR also participates in national forums on communication policy and national economics, such as a recent forum organized by the McArthur Foundation.
Regional Communications Policies
Regional issues are formulated within the context of integrated economic development within communities of common interest. The iCAIR community has worked with regional advanced networking initiatives for many years, in part through its partnership with the Metropolitan Research and Education Network (MREN), a seven state regional advanced network. Other initiatives focused on various state regions.
State Communications Policies
Increasingly, the Center has become involved in State policies related to the development of digital communications infrastructure and facilities that will support the emerging new economy in Illinois. The Center has participated in the Governor's Illinois Broadband Taskforce. In addition, the Center has been involved a number of public policy initiatives in partnership with several Northwestern University organizations, including the Kellogg School of Management and the Communications Systems Program, such as symposiums on telecommunications policy in the State of Illinois. The objective of these forums is to educate state law makers, ICC staff and other constituencies who are involved in writing the state telecommunications law. Illinois is a "bellwether" state for communications policy development, and often leads nationally in new policy formulation issues.
Illinois Century Network (ICN)
The Center not only presents policy information but also is involved with State-wide implementation projects. For example, the Center supported the creation of the state-wide Illinois Century Network (ICN), which provides for advanced Internet services to the educational community in Illinois and to state agencies. This $25 million per year project began as an education only network initiative, but later expanded to become a full service advanced state-wide network for all agencies. The ICN provides telecommunications backbone services for high speed access to data, video, and audio communications in schools and libraries, at colleges and universities, to public libraries and museums, and for local government and state agencies. iCAIR is participating in developing policies and advanced engineering concepts for a major upgrade to the ICN, which includes planning for dark fiber provisioning and wavelength based services. (www.illinois.net). The Center also participated in formulating the policies that led to the funding of the I-WIRE project, Illinois Wire/Wireless Infrastructure for Research and Education, which is developing a next generation network for that will support advanced applications, technology, science and engineering.
Advanced Research and Education Network (AREN)
Leveraging the experience of the current MREN community and the processes being developed to expand within the regional R1 community, a process is being developed to allow broader expansion of high-bandwidth, high performance network capabilities. The Advanced Research and Education Network (AREN) project, under the auspices of MREN, was formulated to allow access to high performance networking for new communities, such as cities, that are considering establishing MetroNets, states, establishing state-wide networks, and even small towns and villages. AREN will link state and city agencies, colleges, museums, libraries, and other non-profit organizations.
Metropolitan Communications Policies
As a member of Mayor Daley's Council of Technology Advisor's (MCTA), the Director of the Center chairs the City's Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI) committee, which has initiated several projects related to preparing the City for the new economy through establishing new communications infrastructure initiatives. These projects are implementing recommendations of the MCTA, presented in a strategic technology report "Chicago Technology Action Plan: Positioning the City for Leadership in the Digital Economy." (ref www.ci.chi.il.us) These efforts have been undertaken in partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), a non-profit, nonpartisan group of business leaders committed to serving the public interest through the promotion and implementation of sensible planning and development policies necessary for a world-class Chicago region.
The ITI committee is working with the City of Chicago on a wide range of projects including public private partnerships intended to design a next generation suite of advanced digital communication services and infrastructure for Chicago. The ITI committee focuses on large-scale infrastructure outside the walls of buildings, such as city-wide backbone infrastructure, based in part on advanced optical networks. The communication projects will insure access to all City agencies, but also allowing that infrastructure to be leveraged by other organizations, including non-profits and corporations. (www.cityofchicago.org/CivicNet/).
iCAIR has participated in multiple digital cities initiative world-wide, related to policies that underscore the importance of large-scale communications infrastructure issues. The Center has assisted in the organization of conferences on this topic, such as one funded by the National Science Foundation, on City policies and e-government, as part of the Great Cities initiative, centered at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The conference explored means by which information technology could enable the effective implementation of enhanced and new government services. Also, iCAIR has participated in a policy conference on topics such as "Digital Communities: Cities in the Information Society," and presented its initiatives on metro policies related to the design and development of large scale advanced networking infrastructure, including economic perspectives.
The Center has been involved in a wide range of project related to the development of international polices related to advanced Internet infrastructure, and has also worked with policy makers in various countries on projects related to domestic policy issues, e.g., comparisons among various policy approaches in different countries. Some of these efforts have been related to initiatives related to StarLight (www.startap.net/starlight/).
Policies Related Access to Wider Communities
Within the context of the Center's mission of examining public policy issues related to advanced digital communication systems, the organization has been involved in a number of projects that have examined general issues related to access to all communities to advanced Internet technologies, especially the wider educational community. There are a wide range of issues to be addressed ranging from general policy, to facilities within schools, to Internet access for educational institutions. (ref: "Internet Technology for Schools," McFarland & Co. Publishers). For example, one current issue is high performance access for educational institutions that would allow for broadband interactive digital media. Because of the slow pace of deregulation for communications, many public policies that were developed 70 years ago for telephone systems are still in effect - significantly restricting the deployment of digital communication services for many segments of society and also may be more costly than is necessary.
iCAIR provided commentary to the process developing a report, "The Power of the Internet for Learning: Moving from Promise to Practice." Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, chairman of the Commission, and Georgia Representative Johnny Isakson, Vice Chairman, have been assigned responsibility for presenting the findings of the Commission and its recommendations. (www.webcommission.org).
"Congress created the Education Commission to ensure that all learners can take full advantage of the educational promise of the World Wide Web. The Commission is required to conducted a study of the critical pedagogical and policy issues affecting the development and use of Web-based content and learning strategies to improve achievement at the K-12 and postsecondary levels. The Commission was charged with presenting its findings to the Congress, President, and nation by the end of 2000. The Commission is comprised of 16 members who were selected by the President, Secretary of Education, and congressional leadership.
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