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The Beantown Media and Technology Experience

by: Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner

April 13, 2011

Last week, I spent a few days in Boston, aka Bean Town, aka Cradle of Modern America. Since the purpose of the trip was to participate in Free Press’s National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR) and visit Verizon’s LTE Innovation Lab in nearby Waltham, I anticipated being impressed by the level of creativity and excitement at both venues. The trip exceeded my expectations. The majority of the attendees at NCMR are folks who have dedicated their lives to “building the movement for better media” on both traditional and new media platforms. Thursday evening, my legal advisor, Louis, and I had dinner with Jay April and Sean McLaughlin. I knew that both are accomplished and acclaimed veterans of community radio and television. They are also very charming and intelligent.

The next day turned out to be inspirational to me on several fronts. It began with a morning trip to the soon to open Verizon’s LTE Innovation Lab. Brian Higgins and his immensely talented team provided me with a glimpse into what is possible when one combines the ingenuity of application developers, the advanced capabilities of LTE, and the excellent propagation characteristics of 700 MHz spectrum. In just a few years from now, we can expect to see a smart phone control all appliances in a home and become an essential weapon in the fight to reduce energy inefficiency. We should also expect to see interactive digital signs that will provide live, two-way video sessions, in multiple languages, to remote video attendants all over the country. This will enable video concierge services in many industries and also provide public safety information during large scale disasters. I was excited to see these and other innovations. I was also pleased to hear Brian say that all the applications and handset devices that are being developed in the lab will be compatible with the rural service providers who are part of Verizon’s Rural LTE Initiative. I also appreciate the assistance that Nneka Ezenwa and David Young gave us in arranging this terrific visit.

That afternoon, I had the pleasure to participate in a “National Town Hall” exchange with Commissioner Michael Copps at NCMR. Bob McChesney introduced Commissioner Copps with well deserved praise, highlighting all that he has done to fight for diversity and localism in media markets. My venerable colleague rocked the house with a patented “Professor” Copps speech on the potential that media has to impact the world. Then a woman I truly admire, Amalia Deloney, introduced me with her gracious words and inspired the audience to greet me with a standing ovation. I focused my remarks on how important it is that we ensure the wireless market is robustly competitive. Competition is the key to keeping the prices of wireless devices and services low, so that all Americans are able to enjoy the innovations being created, and the convenience and other benefits that the wireless market can offer. Following our remarks, Commissioner Copps and I participated in a question and answer session moderated by David Shuster, the Emmy Award winning journalist formerly of Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Afterward, as the result of an unscheduled cancellation due to the possible government shutdown, Free Press invited me to introduce the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Although this introduction would take place pretty soon after my panel, I, of course, accepted the invitation. Leader Pelosi is a true heroine for the advancement of women in all professions and a champion for so many policy initiatives. Even if it was a bit daunting to put an introduction together so quickly, presenting Leader Pelosi is an honor I could not refuse.

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