The contributors to this volume examine issues raised by the intersection of new communications technologies and public policy in this post-boom, post-bust era. Originally presented at the 30th Research Conference on Communication, Information, and Internet Policy (TPRC 2002)—traditionally a showcase for the best academic research on this topic—their work combines hard data and deep analysis to explore the dynamic interplay between technological development and society.
New technologies, although developed with optimism, often fall short of their predicted potential and create new problems. Communications technologies are no different. Their utopian proponents claim that universal access to advanced communications technologies can help to feed the hungry, cure the sick, educate the illiterate, improve the global standard of living, and ultimately bring about world peace.
Until the 1980s, it was presumed that technical change in most communications services could easily be monitored from centralized state and federal agencies. This presumption was long outdated prior to the commercialization of the Internet. With the Internet, the long-forecast convergence of voice, video, and text bits became a reality. Legislation, capped by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, created new quasi-standards such as "fair" and "reasonable" for the FCC and courts to apply, leading to nonstop litigation and occasional gridlock.
At the beginning of 2000, the U.S. economy was enjoying the longest period of sustained growth and economic prosperity in its history. According to The Internet Upheaval, part of the explanation for this phenomenon is a consequence of how information technologies, in particular the Internet, are upending fundamental economic and social structures.