Communications and Society Program

IDEA Organizers and Staff

IDEA Logo

Reed Hundt
Chair
Aspen Institute IDEA Project

Peter Cowhey
Dean, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies
University of California, San Diego

Charlie Firestone
Executive Director
Communications and Society Program
The Aspen Institute

Gary Epstein

General Counsel
Aspen Institute IDEA Project

David Hansen

Partner
Intellectual Property Litigation and Transactions
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP

Jonathan Aronson
Professor
School of International Relations, and
Executive Director
USC Annenberg Center for Communication

Don Abelson
Sudbury International

Shanthi Kalathil

Consultant
Aspen Institute IDEA Project

Melanie Hart
Researcher
Aspen Institute IDEA Project

Sarah Eppehimer
Senior Project Manager
Communications and Society Program
The Aspen Institute

Kate Aishton
Counsel
Aspen Institute IDEA Project


Committee Member Biographies:

Reed Hundt

Reed E. Hundt is currently the CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, a non-profit based out of Washington, DC, as well as the Principal of REH Advisors. He is Chair of the International Digital Economy Accord (IDEA) Project and was a member of President Barack Obama’s Transition Team (2008-09) where he was the economic agency review group head. Reed is on the Board of Directors of Intel Corporation, a public company and Serious Materials, a private company which is a developer and manufacturer of sustainable green building materials. Reed is also a member of the board of Telegent Systems, a CMOS semiconductor private company that operates in Sunnyvale, California, and Shanghai, China. Reed has been Principal at Charles Ross Partners, a consulting firm, since 1997. He serves as a member of the District of Columbia, Maryland and California bars (former). He was Co-Chairman of the Forum on Communications and Society at the Aspen Institute (1998-2006). Reed was Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 1993-97. From 1982-1993 he was a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Latham & Watkins, a national and international law firm and was an associate in Los Angeles and Washington offices (1975-1982).

Books include In China’s Shadow: The Crisis of American Entrepreneurship (Yale University Press, 2006) and You Say You Want A Revolution: A Story of Information Age Politics (Yale University Press, 2000).

Reed graduated from Yale College (1969) with a B.A. in History magna cum laude and with honors with exceptional distinction in history. He graduated from J.D. Yale Law School (1974) and is a member of the executive board of the Yale Law Journal.  He is married to Elizabeth Katz and has three children: Adam (b. 1982), Nathaniel (b. 1985), and Sara (b. 1989).


Peter Cowhey

Peter F. Cowhey is the Dean and Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Communications and Technology Policy at the University of California, San Diego, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS). He is an internationally recognized expert in telecommunications and information policy and markets who also is a leader in building cooperative international arrangements for the management of security and economic issues.

In 2009, Cowhey served a 12 month assignment as the Senior Counselor to Ambassador Kirk in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) under President Barack Obama. He is a former chief of the International Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and negotiated many of the U.S. international agreements for telecommunications and satellite services.

Cowhey is a member of the board of directors of the Grameen Foundation USA, the US foundation supporting the work of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. He also serves as chairman of the board of CONNECT Innovation Institute. Cowhey is a research scholar at the California Institute on Telecommunications and Information Technology (CALIT2) and is a non-resident fellow of the Annenberg Center of Communications at USC. He also consults extensively for the telecommunications and information technology industries.

Cowhey is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has served as chairman of the board of Digital Partners, a non-profit organization using social entrepreneurship to address the "digital divide." In addition to having served on the advisory boards of the United Nations Development Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development, he has advised over fifty countries on reforming their communications markets. Cowhey joined UCSD's faculty in 1976. He was director of the University of California's system-wide IGCC from 1999-2006 and Associate Vice Chancellor-International Affairs from 2007-2009. Cowhey became Dean of IR/PS in July 2002.

Cowhey received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1977, an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, 1971, and a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University in 1970 (foreign service). His recent book is Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: The Political Economy of Innovation, (with J. Aronson and D. Abelson), MIT Press (2009).


Gary Epstein

Gary M. Epstein is the Managing Director and General Counsel of the Aspen Institute International Digital Economy Accords (IDEA) Project. The recently launched Aspen Institute IDEA Project is a year-long internationally inclusive project designed to identify ways to promote innovation and market access opportunities, foster the freedom to connect, preserve open end-to-end networks and facilitate the free flow of communications across borders on an open Internet.

Before joining the IDEA Project, Epstein was the founder and Global Chair of the Communications Practice Group of Latham & Watkins, a national and international law firm. He also served as team leader of the Economics and International Trade Team of President Barack Obama's Transition Team and as Executive Vice President of SkyTerra Communications, an advanced satellite company developing an integrated satellite-terrestrial communications network.  Epstein also served as the Digital Television Coordinator and as Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission.   He is a current member of the Commerce Department's Spectrum Advisory Committee. Gary also is Chair of DC Appleseed, a nonprofit organization dedicated to solving important public policy problems facing the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Gary graduated from Lehigh University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, with highest honors.  He graduated from Harvard Law School with a JD, with honors. He is married to Jeralyn Epstein and has two children and two grandchildren.


Charlie Firestone

Charles M. Firestone is Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program. Since his appointment in December 1989, this program has focused on the impact of new technologies on democratic, economic and social institutions, the development of new communications policy models and options for the public interest, and the implications of communications and information technologies for leadership. For three years he was also the Institute's Executive Vice President for Policy Programs and International Activities.

Prior to his positions with the Aspen Institute, Charlie Firestone was Director of the Communications Law Program at the University of California at Los Angeles and Adjunct Professor of Law at the UCLA Law School, 1977-90. He was also the first President of the Los Angeles Board of Telecommunications Commissioners, which advises the Mayor and City Council on all regulatory matters relating to the cable and telecommunications fields.

Mr. Firestone's legal career includes positions as an attorney at the Federal Communications Commission, as director of litigation for a Washington, DC public interest law firm, and as a communications and entertainment attorney in Los Angeles. He has argued several landmark communications law cases before the United States Supreme Court and other federal appellate courts.

Mr. Firestone holds degrees from Amherst College and Duke University Law School. He is the editor, author or co-author of several books and numerous articles on communications law and policy. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a GLOCOM Fellow of the Japanese Institute of Global Communications in Tokyo, Japan, and was a Visiting Professor at the Duke University Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy in 2003.

He resides with his wife, sculptor Pattie Porter Firestone, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


David Hansen

David W. Hansen, is a partner in the Intellectual Property and Technology Group of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP located in the firm's Palo Alto office. During his more than 20 years with the firm, he has represented a broad range of clients in all aspects of intellectual property and other complex commercial litigation and arbitration. Mr. Hansen also regularly provides intellectual property advice in connection with a variety of corporate acquisitions and other transactions, as well as general counseling on a range of intellectual property issues.

Mr. Hansen has written and spoken on numerous intellectual property issues, including as a lecturer in the computer science department of Stanford University. Mr. Hansen has been recognized as a "leading lawyer" in patent litigation by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business. He also has been recognized as one of California’s top intellectual property lawyers by the Daily Journal.


Jonathan Aronson

Jonathan D. Aronson is Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California. Aronson and Peter Cowhey are the authors of Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: The Political Economy of Innovation (MIT, 2009). He also is the co-author of Managing the World Economy: The Consequences of International Corporate Alliances, When Countries Talk: International Trade in Telecommunications Services, and Trade Talks: America Better Listen! Professor Aronson’s positions at USC included Director of USC’s School of International Relations, Executive Director of the Annenberg Center for Communication, and co-founder and Director of the Annenberg Research Network on International Communication (ARNIC). He has served as President of the Association of Professional School of International Affairs (APSIA). A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Aronson graduated from Harvard University, received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Saint Petersburg State University.


Donald Abelson

Donald Abelson provides global communications and international trade strategic advice through his consulting company, Sudbury International, LLC, which he established in August 2006. Sudbury International LLC serves a global client base by offering advice on a wide range of issues, including standards and regulatory policy, spectrum management and communications-related trade strategy. Mr. Abelson is a contributor to The MIT Press 2009 publication, Transforming Global Information and Communications Markets, authored by Cowhey and Aronson). In 2008 and 2009, he served on the Obama Administration’s transition and confirmation teams for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

Mr. Abelson worked for the U.S. Government for 30 years, where his final position was the Chief of the International Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (1999 to 2006). In this capacity, he directed the FCC’s international activities, including the approval of international telecom services, the assignment of spectrum and the granting of licensing for satellite facilities.  Mr. Abelson managed the FCC’s provision of technical advice to developing countries on regulatory matters and to the U.S. Executive Branch regarding trade negotiations and the activities of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  

Abelson came to the FCC with extensive experience in international communications trade and regulatory issues. In 1998 and 1999, he served as an Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), during which time he led USTR’s effort to facilitate global electronic commerce over the Internet. Prior to that assignment, Abelson was the lead U.S. negotiator of the World Trade Organization’s  (WTO) “Basic Telecommunications Agreement” (1994-1998). These negotiations resulted in a precedent-setting agreement on global local, long-distance and international services delivered by wire, wireless and satellite technologies.

Mr. Abelson started his career at USTR on the team that negotiated the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement). For a decade (1977-1988) he was the lead negotiator on standards-related trade issues. Subsequently, he worked on Latin American trade issues, and in 1993 Abelson was a senior U.S. negotiator on the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and on the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property (TRIPs).

Abelson has a Master’s Degree in International Economics from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) (1975) and a Bachelor’s Degree from Sarah Lawrence College (1972).


Shanthi Kalathil

Shanthi Kalathil is a consultant specializing in issues related to governance, development, and media. She is co-author of the book Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule (Carnegie Endowment, 2003), which examines the political effect of the Internet on eight authoritarian and semi-authoritarian countries. A former Hong Kong-based reporter for the Wall Street Journal Asia, she has also served as a Senior Democracy Fellow in the Office of Democracy and Governance at the United States Agency for International Development, and currently sits on the Advisory Council of the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy. She holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley and the London School of Economics and is fluent in Mandarin.


Melanie Hart

Melanie Hart is a political science Ph.D. specializing in Chinese legal and regulatory affairs. She has over seven years of experience analyzing the Chinese market and assisting U.S. and European firms with China market entry. She has worked for Qualcomm’s Asia Pacific business development group (in San Diego and Beijing) where she provided regulatory analysis and market research to guide business development in China and Southeast Asia. She has also worked for The Scowcroft Group in Washington, DC. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 2010 and her B.A. from Texas A&M University in 2001. She speaks and reads Mandarin Chinese.


Sarah Eppehimer

Sarah Eppehimer joined the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program in May 2007 as a part-time Program Associate. In her current position as a full-time Senior Project Manager, Sarah is responsible for a variety of programs including the Forum on Communications and Society (FOCAS), Conference on Communications Policy, the Roundtable on Spectrum Policy, and the International Digital Economy Accords Project.  Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Sarah worked for the Washington, DC. based investment bank, Milestone Advisors.

In May 2008 Sarah graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University. While at Georgetown she studied political communications, focusing her research on the comparison of traditional and new media campaign advertising. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, International Relations from the University of California, San Diego. Sarah is an avid traveler and has spent time studying in Asia, Africa and South America.


Kate Aishton

Bio forthcoming


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