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Saturday, September 28 • 10:10am - 10:45am
An Exploration into Spectrum Policy Debates on Social Media

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Spectrum policy debates are generally divided between advocates for more robust property rights that would allow Coasian bargaining and advocates for spectrum commons that would permit more unlicensed applications. As recent debates about the upcoming broadcast spectrum incentive auctions indicate, there is also basic disagreement about what the Federal Communications Commission?s role should be in managing spectrum for mobile wireless devices. Some advocates seek enhanced regulation that would implement bright-line limits of spectrum holdings and/or differentiate between spectrum bands in evaluations of spectrum aggregation, e.g., a separate limit for sub-1 GHz holdings, while others argue that the FCC should largely refrain from limiting spectrum aggregation across spectrum bands by wireless carriers.

These debates are often seen as contests between the regulated and the regulator, i.e., wireless carriers and their organizations against the FCC, with a repetitive dynamic: the regulator seeks to implement its statutory mission by means of further regulation while the players in the industry resist constraints on their ability to act, or alternatively, seek regulation that furthers particular interests, e.g., regulation that benefits the dominant players, while disfavoring smaller competitors and new entrants.

Interestingly, contemporary spectrum policy debates involve a broader set of actors than the regulators and the regulated. Today, spectrum policy advocates include numerous organizations and individuals that are not directly regulated, but believe they have a stake in spectrum policy. These advocates are distinct in their increased use and engagement with social media and new forms of Internet based advocacy instead of traditional processes, e.g., filing comments with the FCC at appropriate times in response to proposed rule makings. New forms of advocacy allow for highly technical spectrum policy debates to engage large audiences, which encourages further participation by non-traditional actors. Despite its seemingly abstract and technical nature, spectrum policy is being debated in real time on Twitter on Facebook around the world and occupying the same space as commentary about Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.

This paper utilizes new tools for analyzing social media postings to understand the scope and contours of spectrum policy debates happening on social media. Raw Twitter and Facebook feed data is collected and analyzed using a variety of computational methods, including event detection, sentiment analysis, informational analysis and trending topic analysis. Visualization tools are also used to provide insight into the underlying data. These insights and analysis are then used to chart key events that lead to bursts of online activity; to map the geographic distribution of contributions, including international debates; and to synthesize recurring themes and memes.

Based upon these empirical results, this paper seeks to engage academic debates regarding the contemporary politics of spectrum policy; regulatory agenda setting; the effect of online social media on policy debates, particularly regarding highly technical issues and resource allocation; and the efficacy of certain types of Internet engagement, including the social media efforts of the FCC and other established actors in this sphere.

Social media spectrum policy debates suggest that the Internet is not just broadening political participation, but also increasing the depth of that participation into highly technical arenas. As more spectrum becomes available for mobile broadband and increased adoption follows, the new politics of spectrum may increasingly be debated on social media by an increasingly diverse set of actors.

Saturday September 28, 2013 10:10am - 10:45am PDT
Founders Hall 111

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