University of Colorado Policy Lab

Policy Lab Picture

The Goal

The University of Colorado Policy Lab (UCPL) performs targeted technical and economic experiments and evaluations intended to illuminate critical telecommunications and information technology policy issues. Experiments are designed and results analyzed to be relevant and easily understood by all stakeholders, regardless of background (technical, legal, business, economic, etc.). Success is measured by the Lab's ability to clarify key issues and accelerate valuable innovations. The Lab has a philosophy of non-advocacy: avoiding taking positions on behalf of the political interests of any particular stakeholder. The lab is an affiliated project of the Silicon Flatrions Telecommunications Program.

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Technology driven innovation can easily outstrip the ability of policy makers to adapt economic and social policy frame works. The result is innovation still born or delayed, potentially at great cost to society. Industries with strong network effects, such as the telecommunications and computer industries, are primary examples. The Internet in particular is attracting increasing attention from local, state, national, and international interest policy perspectives - just as telecommunications traditionally has.

There is a more effective way to deal with the policy-technology interactions in this industry than addressing new challenges with old solutions. To develop new approaches to cutting-edge policy challenges, UCPL provides a forum for integrating both technology and policy concerns. UCPL accelerates the introduction of important technologies by tuning them to realistic policy frame works and evolution, accelerates the rate at which policy formulation anticipates and adapts to technical possibilities, and discovers entirely new innovations inspired by the juxtaposition of social goals, policy processes, and technical experimentation. Importantly, UCPL is built on an infrastructure of targeted technology analysis and experimentation, particularly in the areas of network protocols, communication hardware and software, and security; the lab is unique in the tightness of feedback between technology and policy work and the experience of its investigators in straddling both worlds. The lab generates targeted and convincing examples to clarify key points in policy and regulation.

UCPL draws on a partnership between units of the University of Colorado at Boulder, government agencies, and companies, all with an interest in telecommunications and network applications, infrastructure, and policy. The partnership is made tangible through three mechanisms: formal interactions building on the successful Silicon Flatirons Telecommunications Program policy conferences and workshops, informal and targeted interactions focused on particular technical-policy problems, and internship and employment opportunities for student researchers trained in the Lab. These mechanisms foster the unique innovations possible by considering technology and policy problems together.

Although UCPL investigations can span a wide territory of topics, several policy areas are under special stress as telecommunications evolves towards ubiquitous networking, including:

  • Intercarrier compensation - mechanisms for efficiently allocating costs between carriers to promote high levels of interconnection and the network benefits that brings to society, but to do so in an economically efficient manner.
  • Universal service fund - mechanisms and policies for subsidizing higher cost telecommunications users in support of network effects or social equity goals.
  • Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) - the technical and legal framework for wiretapping by law enforcement agencies
  • Emergency Services - systems and policies to provide reliable and appropriate response to individuals during emergencies, such as the E911 system and disaster preparedness.
  • Security and Trustworthiness - technologies and policies to provide reasonable assurances of availability, reliability, privacy, property rights, and other political and social goals.

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