The next stage of U.S. communications policy: The emerging embedded infosphere

  • Authors: Taylor, Richard D.
  • Telecommunications Policy
  • 2017
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.telpol.2016.11.007


The United States needs to reimagine the basic principles of its telecommunications and information policy to fit an emerging society in which networking and intelligence are embedded into an increasing number of everyday things which constantly monitor and measure our lives. This emerging environment is an always-on, ubiquitous, integrated system comprised of the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence/Intelligent Systems and the Intercloud, which act together as a single system, referred to here as the “Embedded Infosphere” (EI). This development is driving the latest stage – the third – in the evolution of U.S. communications policy. Each of the components of the EI presents unique challenges, but the greater concern is all of them acting in concert. These developments bring into focus many topics that have been outside the traditional communications policy envelope, and exceed the portfolios of existing agencies and institutions. This article envisions a new “EI policy space,” grounded in established societal values, and built on the experience of the previous stages. There are appropriate policy responses to each of the challenges, but these responses need to be seen in a holistic perspective, as they are all interconnected. Many of the issues such as privacy, security, consumer protection, and data stewardship are common across several elements. The larger goal is to establish a framework for an integrated policy structure which can address unpredictable emergent conditions, while allowing markets to flourish without unduly burdensome regulations, restrictions or uncertainties. This articles suggests a high-level analytical framework of criteria against which proposed EI policies can be measured. While there may be no “perfect” policies, some may be better (or worse) than others. It also offers a political process designed to incorporate the concept of the EI into national policy thinking. This approach should be implemented through a series of steps and should provide flexibility for development. The initial step is a process by which the EI can be acknowledged, its development analyzed, and the national interests institutionalized. The U.S. Senate has already initiated this process with the pending “DIGIT” Act, designed to bring together the core federal stakeholders and open a policy discourse which will be expanded over time to other key stakeholders. This should lead to the development of a national EI strategy. Since the EI is progressively global, the article suggests how both the normative and regulatory dimensions can be approached in the global context. It raises the possibility of a restructured ICANN “Empowered Community” as a possible venue for developing policies and recommendations in this area. It notes that since global unanimity is unlikely, non-governmental regimes will likely develop to address the unresolved policy interstices.


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