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        ...daily updates on PFF's Aspen Summit

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Keynote Address: Doing Good While Doing Well: The Telecommunications Catalyst in Economic Transformation

PFF Chairman George "Jay" Keyworth opened the final day of the Aspen Summit by introducing Nortel Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William Owens. The former U.S. Navy Admiral called on U.S. policymakers to develop a better vision for broadband deployment. (See the PFF press release for more information.)

Roundtable Discussion: Property Rights in the Air:  Approaches to Spectrum Reform

  • Thomas M. Lenard, Vice President, The Progress & Freedom Foundation (Moderator)
  • Michael Gallagher, Commerce Department Assistant Secretary and Director of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
  • Thomas J. Sugrue, Vice President of Government Affairs,
  • Kevin Werbach, Professor, Wharton School of Business , University of Pennsylvania
  • Lawrence J. White, Arthur E. Imperatore Professor of Economics Department of Economics, Leonard N. Stern School of Business New York University

The roundtable discussions opened this morning with "Property Rights in the Air: Approaches to Spectrum Reform." The panel, which included private, public and academic sector representatives, found some common ground. Panelists for the most part agreed that there is room for licensed and unlicensed spectrum, but University of Pennsylvania 's Kevin Werbach pushed for an unlicensed commons model for spectrum whenever possible. Opinions differed when it came to government usage by agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation. It was suggested by one panelist that the government is more than capable of participating in the spectrum market, as opposed to having specific spectrum allocated for free government use.

Plenary Address

The conference attendees next heard a plenary address by U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn, in addition to sitting on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been an advocate for intellectual property protection, having once served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission. Blackburn praised the driving principles of PFF, stating that the role of government is to create an environment with a "light regulatory touch" that will encourage private sector growth. Blackburn discussed the Digital Television transition, promising legislation would move in committee in September. She also discussed her Video Choice Act of 2005, a bill designed to ease the franchising process for video competitors entering new markets. Rep. Blackburn, while answering an audience question, also explained her views on the controversial Universal Service Fund (USF), saying she'd rather do away with it and "start with a blank sheet of paper" instead of attempting small changes.

Roundtable Discussion: Is Media Convergence Leading to Regulatory Convergence? Old Threats and New Media

  • Adam Thierer, Senior Fellow & Director of the Center for Media Freedom, The Progress & Freedom Foundation (Moderator)
  • Robert Corn-Revere, Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine
  • John Landgraf, President & General Manager, FX Networks
  • David Stapf, President, Paramount Network Television

The second roundtable of the morning, "Is Media Convergence Leading to Regulatory Convergence? Old Threats to New Media," discussed the effect of ongoing media convergence on public policy. Panelists discussed how the regulations that have historically been applied to broadcast media, have not been applied to the Internet, even though the convergence of media outlets seemed to imply that technology specific regulation can no longer exist. All participants warned against attempting to regulate indecency because of the constant shift of what defines indecency. The participants also spoke about the ease in which interest groups can target complaints to broadcasters via the Internet, which can skew the perception of what the populous finds offensive.

The most riveting discussion among the panelists concerned perceived indecency in the media. The panelists praised the "self regulation" now available to parents because of advances in broadcast technology such as V-chips and digital video recorders (DVRs).

Roundtable Discussion: The Capitalism of Ideas: Patents and the Structure of Innovation

  • Solveig Singleton, Senior Fellow, The Progress & Freedom Foundation (Moderator)
  • Q. Todd Dickinson, Vice President & Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, General Electric Company
  • John Duffy, Professor, George Washington University
  • Marshall Phelps, Vice President for IP & Licensing, Microsoft Corporation
  • William C. Rooklidge, President, American Intellectual Property Law Association; Partner, Howrey, LLP

The final roundtable focused on patents. All of the panelists on "The Capitalism of Ideas: Patents and the Structure of Innovation" felt there was room for improvement but differed on how to get there. George Washington University Law Professor John Duffy suggested that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could be privatized, which drew a mixed reaction. Many agreed that one way to improve patent quality would be to have the PTO receive more resources. If it weren't subject to annual fee diversions by appropriators, said GE's Todd Dickinson, the PTO would be able to hire more examiners, train them and retain them.

Luncheon Address

A luncheon address was given by Intellectual Ventures CEO Nathan Myhrvold, who cautioned against rushing in to patent reform as he felt many of the arguments in favor of reform are "myths." (See our press release for more information.)

Chairman's Dinner & Address

Kleiner Perkins co-founder Tom Perkins closed out the Aspen Summit with a riveting Chairman's Dinner address. He described his firsthand experience in building the modern venture capital industry in Silicon Valley. (See our press release for more information.)

Once again, the PFF Aspen Summit provoked compelling conversations and spirited debates. Hopefully next year you can be a part of it yourself!



The Progress & Freedom Foundation