Program Participant

Program Participant

Rob Frieden

Pioneers Chair and Professor, Telecommunications and Law, Pennsylvania State University

Rob Frieden holds the Pioneers Chair and serves as Professor of Telecommunications and Law at Penn State University where he teaches courses in technology management, regulation, business, policy and law. Professor Frieden has published four books, most recently Winning the Silicon Sweepstakes: Can the United States Compete in Global Telecommunications, published by Yale University Press.

Before accepting an academic appointment, Professor Frieden served as Deputy Director-International Relations for Motorola Satellite Communications, Inc. He also has held senior telecommunications policy making positions at the United State Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.  In the private sector, Professor Frieden practiced law in Washington, D.C., and served as Assistant General Counsel at PTAT System, Inc. the first private, international undersea fiber optic cable venture.

Professor Frieden holds a B.A., with distinction, from the University of Pennsylvania (1977) and a J.D. from the University of Virginia (1980).

You can find Rob Frieden in:

Research Workshop: Models for Adoption and Broadband Diffusion
Sunday, 15 January 2017


Meheroo Jussawalla Research Prize Award

Grey Nuances in the Black and White Debate Over Subsidized Internet Access


Paper Slides


This paper will examine current disputes whether national regulatory authorities (“NRAs”) should permit broadband carriers and content providers, such as Facebook, to subsidize broadband access to a limited, “walled garden” of content. The subsidy also can sponsored access to selected sites without debiting a monthly data allowance. The paper concludes that even though carriers and content providers serve profit maximizing goals in zero rating and sponsored data arrangements, the practice can have positive spillover effects including more access by impoverished users.

Internet content providers and carriers currently consider whether to offer subsidized access as a way to “groom” tentative, subsidized users into paying ones. During the subsidized term, individuals least able to afford even extremely low cost access options have opportunities to access content, albeit a curated selection. The paper examines zero rating without the inclination to pass judgment using an absolute either/or basis, as often occurs on issues collectively framed as network neutrality, or open Internet. 

A more nuanced view identifies both costs and benefits in allowing zero rating. On balance, welfare enhancing benefits appear to exceed costs, including harm to competition and some consumers. The paper suggests that carriers should offer zero rating opportunities on a conditional and promotional basis thereby making it more difficult for existing subscribers simply to avoid paying surcharges for exceeding data caps. While NRAs should not micro-manage carriers’ service pricing, establishing qualification rules fits with other universal service initiatives that rely on well calibrated and targeted subsidies to simulate broadband service demand and supply.


Top of page