Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017
A good interview with Tom Hazlett concerning his book, entitled Political Spectrum.
Friday, May 5th, 2017
I was honored to take part in a celebration of the many endowed faculty at MSU. From the College of Communication Arts and Sciences #comartsci, a medallion was given to me – Bill Dutton – as the James H. and Mary B. Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy, in the Department of Media and Information, and John C. Besley, the Ellis N. Brandt Chair in Public Relations, and noted among many other things for his work on public attitudes toward science and scientists. Dean Prabu David was on hand to congratulate us.
My major take away from this event is the need and value for the College #comartsci to attract more endowed professorships. They are indeed one way to attract faculty to the university and a terrific way to recognize alumni and others who give to the university. The best news of the event was a reminder that MSU was named at one of the world’s 50 powerhouse universities – so much potential for colleagues to fulfill in the coming years.
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
As a new faculty member, arriving just three years ago, I learned a lot at the retirement party that the Department of Media and Information put on for Bob Albers, who was with the department for 35 years – maybe more. He was the first and founding director of what is called the Media Sandbox, which has attracted undergraduates across the university who want to learn the basics of media production.
All the art of media production went into his retirement party on May 1st. It was held in Studio A of the WKAR Studios, which are in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, as is the Media and Information Department. The party seemed to have been produced by the new director of the Sandbox, Karl Gude, who did a brilliant job mixing people, stories, and media into a major tribute for Bob. It was funny, informative, and touching, even for those like me who are new to the College and Department.
Congratulations to all who spoke and were involved in this production. In addition to Karl, these included Prabu David (Dean of College of Communication Arts and Sciences), Johannes Bauer, Gary Reid, Susi Elkins (General Manager of WKAR), Jeff Wray (College of Arts and Letters, who taught with Bob), Valeta Winsloff (mixed media from the back of the room at the Wizard of Oz media controller), Elise Conklin (one of Bob’s students who recently won a medal for the documentary “From Flint” at the 43rd Annual Student Academy Awards), and many many more.
Way to practice what you teach, my friends and colleagues, and thank you, Bob.
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
Professor Barry Wellman’s Quello Lecture on ‘Digital Media and Networked Individualism’, given on 26 April 2017 to a packed, standing room only audience at the Department of Media and Information, Michigan State University.
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
Professor Barry Wellman gave a Quello Lecture on Digital Media and Networked Individualism on 26 April 2017. Immediately before he spoke, Professor Bianca Reisdorf interviewed Barry, asking him to provide an overview of his talk, and his thoughts on connected seniors.
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
We had a full house for Professor Barry Wellman’s talk on digital media and networked individualism. He was introduced brilliantly by his former student, MSU’s Professor Keith Hampton, and provided an entertaining and informative overview of his thesis on networked individualism. His emphasis was on the degree that the pundits continue to press the theme of the Internet and social media isolating individuals, and his own research, which demonstrates the opposite: digital media tends to connect people and reinforce family and friendship ties as well as introducing people to new friends and associates.
Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
On April 11th, 2017, Richard Stallman, the President and Founder of the Free Software Foundation, gave a Quello Lecture at Michigan State University on “A Free Digital Society”. Here is the unedited version of this full talk, which you are free to use for educational purposes. The first hour is focus on ‘free software’, and the second hour moves into the discussion of surveillance, censorship, problems with Internet services, and discussion of electronic voting, and the war on sharing. There is also a short video of an interview with Richard here.
Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
Richard Stallman, perhaps the leading pioneer of Free Software, visited the Quello Center and delivered a Quello Lecture on 11 April 2017 to a standing room only audience. Immediately after his lecture, our Media and Information Masters Student, Irem Gokce Yildirim, did her first interview. She asked Richard to address key issues for the free software movement and related issues over surveillance in a digital society. His responses were clear and give you a sense of his more detailed presentation that is available here.
Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
Joelle Gehring, PhD, a biologist for the FCC, works with communications tower operators to minimize bird collisions with towers, which are so serious that they are posing risks to endangered migratory birds. Dr Gehring noted that current estimates are that “6.8 million birds … collide with U.S. and Canadian communication towers during migration.
Joelle described the development of her research aimed at identifying what features of communications towers are leading to so many birds colliding with and being killed by collisions with these towers. The title of her talk was ‘Reducing Avian Collisions with Communications Towers: From Research to Implementation’. Living in Michigan, and studying wildlife ecology at Purdue University, she latched onto the problem of bird deaths being caused by them colliding with the towers. Her study looked systematically at such factors as the weather, the location of towers in the surrounding landscape, the tower support system (guide wires), the heights of the towers, and the tower lighting systems. Height makes a difference with broadcast towers being among the tallest and projecting into the flight paths of migratory birds. But whether the towers had lights that were constantly on or blinking turned out to be a surprising and important finding. Simply by ensuring that towers switched to blinking, flashing lights, created a far more bird friendly lighting system – saving tens of thousands of birds over time.
Dr Gehring’s research is one of the best examples of a clear and insightful project having major policy implications. Hers is research with a clear and major impact on migratory birds.
Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
This week, the Quello Center had the privilege of hosting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Biologist, Dr. Joelle Gehring (event page) to discuss her work on reducing avian collisions with communications towers. Dr. Gehring’s work, which was recently profiled by NPR, presently involves collaborating with federal regulators such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and communication tower owners to adjust tower lighting in order to reduce migratory bird collisions.
Back of the envelope calculations suggest that the efforts of Dr. Gehring and her colleagues have the potential to reduce avian fatalities by 4-5 million per year in the U.S. and Canada alone. Moreover, as Dr. Gehring pointed out, the efforts that tower owners need to undertake are relatively minimal and result in reduced maintenance and energy costs. Dr. Gehring briefly outlines the steps that tower owners should undertake here (additional FCC guidance here) and a more complete set of guidelines is available from the FAA.
Dr. Gehring’s work reminded me of ongoing FCC developments concerning the broader topic of environmental compliance by tower owners, an issue dealt with by the FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Competition & Infrastructure Policy Division (CIPD). In particular, as Bill Dutton, Mitch Shapiro and I discuss in our Wireless Regulatory Analysis (see Section 3.1), the FCC’s rules for environmental review ensure that licensees and registrants take appropriate measures to protect environmental and historic resources. In light of all the other major FCC related developments that are grabbing headlines (Susan Crawford tees up some of these here), one that may have been much less noticed is a soon to be released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry (NPRM and NOI) concerning the FCC’s environmental and historic review.
Specifically, the NPRM and NOI commence an FCC examination of the regulatory impediments to wireless network infrastructure investment and deployments in an effort to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment. Among the topics discussed by the NPRM are potential changes to the FCC’s approach to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Presently, a new tower construction requires, among other things, approval from state or local governing authorities as well as compliance with FCC rules implementing NEPA and NHPA.
NEPA compliance requires three different levels of analysis depending on the potential environmental impact. Actions which do not have a significant effect on the (human) environment do not require an environmental assessment or impact statement and are categorically excluded. For actions that are not categorically excluded, a document presenting the reasons why the action will not have a significant effect on the environment must be prepared. A detailed written statement is required when an action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the environment.
Naturally, wireless providers seeking to enhance service and expand throughout the U.S. have raised concerns that the FCC’s environmental and historic preservation review processes increase the costs of deployment and pose lengthy delays. Issues that have been raised include the need to compensate Tribal Nations claiming large geographic areas (including several full states) within their geographic areas of interest for review of submissions, the burdens of dual reviews by local authorities and State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO), and the expense of environmental compliance in cases where minimal likelihood of harms are alleged by wireless providers.
The NPRM seeks to mitigate some of the issues, asking stakeholders to weigh in when and what kind of Tribal Nation compensation is justified, how to deal with delays that may result from SHPO review broadly, and whether or not to include categorical exclusions for small cells and distributed antenna systems (DAS) facilities. These actions may all be well intended, well-reasoned, and ultimately in the public interest, but what concerns me is how one sided the FCC’s NPRM reads at the moment. The NPRM elaborates on and in some instances quantifies the cost of NEPA and NHPA review, but little attention is devoted to attempting to qualify or quantify the potential benefits of these additional review processes, or alternatively the potential costs of NOT undergoing NEPA and NHPA review.
Having learned about this NPRM quite late in the game myself, I noticed that the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System contains comments from stakeholders on both sides, including wireless service providers and infrastructure owners on one side along with Native Tribes and parties concerned with historic and environmental preservation on the other (the relevant Docket Numbers are 17-79 and 15-180). However, having searched for the word “comment” throughout the NPRM, I observed that the FCC has only cited the former in the NPRM (e.g., see footnotes 72 citing Sprint and Verizon, footnote 73 citing the Competitive Carrier Association, Crown Castle, and Verizon, and so on). Is this an indication that the FCC has already made its decision regarding what to do and simply unveiling the NPRM to indicate that it has thought about the issue before making a ruling? I sincerely hope not, but I am concerned.
Thus, in light of the lack of press concerning this issue I urge the following: If you are worried about the impact that the expansion of wireless infrastructure has on the environment, please make your voice heard. If you have an opinion regarding the extent to which wireless infrastructure developers and/or regulators should consider historic preservation, please tell regulators why you think historic preservation is important. If you are an expert in either of these issues, please try to quantify your response to the FCC. I can’t stress enough the last part: the FCC needs to perform a cost benefit analysis, or stated differently, compare the costs of delays to broadband expansion to those of degradation of environmental preservation standards. If the FCC can place a dollar amount on both issues, it makes it far more likely that a socially and economically sensible decision could be reached.
Dr. Gehring’s own work, which was started over a decade ago during her time as a Conservation Scientist with Michigan State University, highlights the importance of reaching and listening to stakeholders on all sides of the debate. Through her teams’ relentless efforts, regulators were able to come up with environmentally friendly approaches that also reduced costs—a win-win. I hope that regulators can learn from Dr. Gehring’s accomplishments.