Presenting the Initial Charles Benton Junior Scholar Award
Research Conference on Communications, Information and Internet Policy (TPRC)
September 9, 2017

Prepared Remarks by Adrianne B. Furniss

Encouraging new voices and views in telecommunications debates

I am thrilled to be back at TPRC and must say that somewhere my father is beaming with pride that we are honoring him by creating the Charles Benton Junior Scholar Award.

Although Charles is remembered as a businessman and philanthropist, at his core, he was a lifelong learner and educator. And he was passionate about connecting scholars with practitioners and policymakers.

Charles returned to TPRC year after year not because he was a researcher, but because he felt there was so much to learn from the work of everyone who gathers here. Each time he returned to Benton’s offices brimming with ideas inspired by the presentations he heard and the conversations they sparked. 

Charles’ vision, carried on today at Benton, is that we can improve everyone’s life if we can connect and engage them in addressing our common problems. He spent a lifetime advocating for a holistic approach, combining access to fast, fair, and open communications networks and the training needed to develop 21st century skills. 

The Benton Foundation is guided by Charles’ vision of universal broadband access, adoption and use. To achieve this vision Benton:

  1. Curates and distributes the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest of media and communications news. Our new website is launching in mid-September and I encourage everyone to visit benton.org and subscribe to our daily newsletter, weekly round-up or both!
  2. Benton connects stakeholders through information sharing and analysis to frame and promote conversation and a more inclusive debate around communications policy. 
  3. Supports legal and policy experts who preserve and strengthen the public benefits of America’s communications environment, who can nourish and protect democratic values, and who can communicate to the public why this all matters. Andy Schwartzman, a stalwart at TPRC, is Benton Senior Counselor at the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center. Simmons College’s Colin Rhinesmith just completed a two-year term as the Benton Faculty Research Fellow. And I am proud to announce today that former FCC General Counsel and Department of Justice official Jon Sallet is now a Benton Senior Fellow and will be continuing his work to protect an open and competitive Internet.

Benton believes we need to have a robust debate about what “in the public interest” means in the Digital Age. We’re proud to support the Charles Benton Junior Scholar Award so we can encourage new voices and views in telecommunications debates. Our goal is not to promote one perspective, but to highlight unique perspectives that together can help more people understand their stake in communications policy.

TPRC is an excellent partner in this endeavor as this community’s interdisciplinary thinking serves not just researchers, but policymakers, members of the private sector, and civil society, students and practitioners. 

Thanks go to Johannes Bauer, who first suggested we honor Charles’ enthusiasm for the TPRC community with the Junior Scholar Award. I also want to recognize Colin Rhinesmith, TPRC’s Fernando Laguarda, Robin Mansell of the London School of Economics, Jon Gant at North Carolina Central University, and Carnegie Mellon’s Jon Peha for wading through many, many quality entries to pick this year’s recipient. 

This year, the Charles Benton Junior Scholar award goes to Mirjam R. J. Lange, a doctoral student at the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE) at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. She is also a Researcher at Goethe-University in Frankfurt. She received her undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Bonn, Germany in 2011 and earned her Master’s degree in Economics from Heinrich–Heine University in Düsseldorf in 2013.

Mirjam’s main research focuses on telecommunications and competition, particularly price-discrimination in broadband markets. She also works experimentally on behavioral economics, such as salience theory. She has published in Telecommunications Policy. The title of Mirjam’s research paper, which the panel selected for the award, is: “Tariff Diversity and Competition Policy - Drivers for Broadband Adoption in the European Union.” 

Please join me in congratulating Mirjam!