A Capabilities Approach to Communications Equity
16 COLO. TECH. L.J. 11 (2017)
22 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2018
Date Written: June 1, 2017
This Article seeks to clarify the role of equity considerations in communications policy, and offer guidance for policy-makers going forward. Part I examines existing equity measures and their justifications. Three different forms of equity—user, provider, and burden fairness—are usually conflated, which confuses matters. Many of the most significant recent policy controversies at the FCC can be understood in terms of one or more of these equity considerations. Part II introduces Sen’s capabilities approach and outlines its implications for communications policy. Understanding communications equity in terms of functionings and capabilities makes intuitive sense, because communications is itself such an important means toward human flourishing. As in the earlier era of voice telephony, the first equity goal of broadband policy was to build out the network widely. While work on that front remains, more of the focus now should shift from enabling the network to what the network enables. A capabilities orientation provides the FCC and other policy-makers with a sounder framework for equity initiatives in the current environment.
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