Christopher Ali

Telecommunications and Media Industries

Christopher Ali

Pioneers Chair, Professor of Telecommunications



Dr. Christopher Ali is the Pioneers Chair in Telecommunications and professor of telecommunications in the Bellisario College. He holds a Ph.D. in communication studies from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (2013). His research interests include media and telecommunications policy and regulation, broadband policy, critical political economy, critical geography, comparative media systems, qualitative research methods, media localism and local news.

Dr. Ali uses critical, qualitative methods to research broadband policy, planning, deployment and digital equity in the United States. Presently, he has a series of projects dedicated to “broadband stories,” where he is researching how community-based stories can influence public policy. These projects involve interviews, focus groups, surveys, and field work to better understand the qualitative and narrative experiences of those people, places, and organizations facing digital insecurity.

Dr. Ali is the author or editor of four books: "Public Service Media’s Contribution to Society"(2023, with Prof. Dr. Manuel Puppis), "Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity" (2021), "Media Localism: The Policies of Place" (2017), "Echoes of Gabriel Tarde: What we know better or different 100 years later" (2014, with Drs. Elihu Katz and Joohan Kim). In "Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity" (MIT Press, 2021), Ali examined the complicated terrain of rural broadband policy in the U.S. "Farm Fresh" unpacks the politics of broadband policy, asking why millions of rural Americans lack broadband access and why the federal government, and large providers, are not doing more to connect the unconnected.

Based on his expertise, Dr. Ali was called to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee in 2021 on broadband funding and policy programs. He has also briefed members of the House Democrats Task Force on Rural Broadband, the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on Re-Imagining New York, the Federal Communications Commission, and has presented before numerous state and county governments.

Dr. Ali has published peer reviewed articles in numerous high ranking academic journals including, Communication Theory, Media Culture & Society, and Telecommunications Policy. His most recent article, published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, argues for the need for the inclusion of ethnographic methods in critical policy studies. His writing has been published in The New York Times, The Hill, Realtor Magazine, Law & Political Economy, Digital Beat, GovTech, Zocalo Public Square, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Washington Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Conversation. He is a frequent press commentator on the subjects of broadband, media policy, and local news, with interviews in the Associated Press, Hollywood Reporter, Business Insider, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, NPR, CNET, CBC, Bloomberg, and other major national and international news outlets.

Ali's first single-authored book, "Media Localism: The Policies of Place" (University of Illinois Press, 2017) addresses the difficulties of defining and regulating local media in the 21st century in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and the implications these difficulties have for the long-term viability of local news. This is the first book to investigate local media policy in a comparative context and the first to systematically assess media localism in Canada and the UK. It combines policy analysis and critical theory to provide for a unique perspective on one of the most challenging policy questions in the media industry: what does it mean to be local?

Dr. Ali presently serves as the Associate Editor of the journal Communication Law & Policy. He is also a member of the technology advisory board of Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) and sits on the advisory board of the Centre County Film Festival.

Previously, he served as the Chair of the Communication Law and Policy Division of the International Communication Association (2021-2023). He has also served on the Federal Communication Commission’s Communication Equity and Diversity Council Working Group and was a board member of Charlottesville Tomorrow, a non-profit news organization in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr. Ali has held fellowships at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society (2019-2020), the Global Future Council of the World Economic Forum (2018), the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communications (CARGC) at the University of Pennsylvania (2017 & 2022), the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University (2016-2017 & 2019-2021) and the University of Fribourg in Fribourg Switzerland (2015).

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Christopher Ali
105C Carnegie Building