Conferences and Workshops

Broadband Research in a Changing World

Broadband Research in a Changing World:
New Technologies, Ideologies and Priorities

A by-invitation experts’ workshop to be held at
American University Washington College of Law,
Washington DC, September 10, 2017


Broadband is now widely accepted as an essential infrastructure for the information economy. Billions of dollars in private industry investments supplemented by targeted universal access subsidies have now enabled 73 percent of American households to subscribe to broadband. Yet, some communities and demographic groups have experienced gaps in access and usage that have persisted over time and multiple generations of technology. The diffusion of advanced broadband networks and services has sometimes widened these gaps to the detriment of the economic competitiveness, ability to access basic social and educational resources, and democratic participation of individuals and communities. Consequently, there is continuing need for both policy-makers and the academic research community to stay engaged with questions of broadband access.
The Institute for Information Policy at Penn State (IIP), celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the Journal of Information Policy (JIP), now in its 7th year, are organizing a one-day workshop to present and discuss research focusing on the challenges for achieving universal broadband access that takes into account technological developments, social and educational needs, and a dynamic political landscape. This workshop is the 15th in the IIP and JIP joint workshop series advancing an information policy agenda (for previous workshops see:

In June 2016, the IIP organized a two-day, interdisciplinary workshop at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and submitted its report titled Broadband 2021. Incorporating this, and other inputs, the NSF and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) published the National Broadband Research Agenda (NBRA) Report in January 2017. These initiatives, though they emerged from the prior administration, are likely to have continued relevance especially now when the current administration has announced that infrastructure investments, including potentially in rural broadband networks, is a policy priority.

The workshop is a continuation of the NBRA process. Specifically, it is intended to further key objectives of the NBRA Report, namely to encourage policy and program impact evaluations and to foster increased collaboration throughout the research community. At the same time, it is geared to hear more voices and to encourage learning from academic, industry and policy players worldwide.

The workshop seeks to address broadband research at a meta-analytical level (“research about doing research”). Papers may address (but are not limited to) questions such as:

• The status of research on broadband: Identifying un-investigated and under-investigated questions;
• The quality of databases and structural impediments to the availability of data;
• The viability and validity of methodological approaches;
• Investigations of the policy processes behind broadband policy including the role of advocacy networks, foundations, and academic think tanks;
• The appropriateness of metrics and benchmarks for the temporal and cross-sectional evaluation of broadband access and performance;
• “Broadband Access”: To what? For whom?
• Should “broadband access” be a “human right”? An entitlement?
• Should there be a right for access to and use of mobile broadband services.  Will access to high-speed mobile broadband satisfy the requirement for “access”? 
• What is the role of the market in assuring universal broadband access, vs. the role of the government?
• What impact, if any, will new technologies such as the IoT, “Big Data” and the “cloud” have on broadband research?
• How can research on broadband support SMEs? Innovation? Entrepreneurship? R&D? Reducing the size of government and the need for government regulations?
• How, if at all, should tax policies be changed to encourage investments that will promote increased universal broadband access?
• International comparative studies of broadband access and policies for its development.

We refer you to the Broadband 2021 and the National Broadband Research Agenda (NBRA) Reports for other topics and research questions.

Presenters at the workshop will be invited to submit their completed papers for review by the Journal of Information Policy (

Pending budgetary approval, some travel support may be available for junior scholars or those with significant travel expenses. We cannot guarantee that this support will be available at this stage.

In addition to the presentation of papers, an integral part of the workshop will be continuing and potentially institutionalizing the academic networking initiated at IIP’s June 2016 Broadband 2021 Workshop and strategizing mechanisms for the dissemination of academic research to government stakeholders.

Abstracts of up to 500 words and a short bio of the author(s) should be submitted to by July 15, 2017. Accepted presenters will be notified by July 31, 2017 on the acceptance of their paper and will need to commit to provide an advanced draft of their study by August 31, 2017, to allow selected respondents to read and prepare thoughtful comments in order to elicit a meaningful conversation. Please write IIP_BROADBAND2021: YOUR NAME in the subject line.