Christopher Ali

Associate Professor

Wilson 226

Office Hours:

Wednesdays 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Class Schedule:

MDST 4000: Media Theory and Methods, Tu 3:30pm - 6:00pm

MDST 8003: Methods of Media Research, We 5:00pm - 7:30pm

Dr. Christopher Ali is an Associate Professor in Department of Media Studies. He joined the Department in the fall of 2013 after completing his PhD at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include: media/communication policy and regulation, broadband policy, critical political economy, critical geography, comparative media systems, qualitative research methods, media localism, and local news.

Christopher’s current research focuses on broadband policy and deployment in the United States, specifically in rural areas. His new book, Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity (MIT Press, 2021), examines the complicated terrain of rural broadband policy in the US. Farm Fresh unpacks the politics of broadband policy, asking why millions of rural Americans lack broadband access and why the federal government, and large providers, are not doing more to connect the unconnected.

Based on his expertise, Christopher was called to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on broadband funding and policy programs. He has also briefed members of the House Democrats Task Force on Rural Broadband, the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on Re-Imagining New York, and has presented before numerous state and county governments.

Currently, Christopher is involved in three major research projects. The first, through a fellowship at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism asks why Americans place so much in the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). With Hilde Van den Bulck of Drexel University, Christopher addresses this question through a nationwide representative survey released in January 2021. His second project focuses on broadband policy, practice, and human rights in OECD countries. The first stage involves a partnership with Brighton Analytics to compare the regulatory designation of broadband (e.g. right/utility/good) with network deployment and performance in the largest city in each OECD member country. This research will lay the foundation for his next book tentatively titled: The Great Digital Migration: How COVID forced us online and exposed the gaps in our digital worlds. The project is a contemplation of the global migration online during the COVID-19 pandemic and broadband as a human right. His third project examines and evaluates the digital divide at post-secondary institutions, asking “what are the responsibilities of higher education institutions to their un- and under-connected community members?”

Christopher has published in numerous high ranking academic journals including, Communication Theory, Media Culture & Society and Telecommunications Policy. His most recent article, which examines the failure of broadband policy at the Federal Communications Commission was published in the International Journal of Communication in 2020. Christopher’s work has been published in The New York Times, The Hill, Realtor Magazine, Law & Political Economy, Washington Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Conversation, and he is a frequent commentator on the subjects of broadband, media policy, and local news, with interviews in the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, NPR, CNET, CBC, Bloomberg, and other major national and international news outlets.

Christopher’s first single-authored book, Media Localism: The Policies of Place (University of Illinois Press, 2017) addresses the difficulties of defining and regulating local media in the 21st century in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and the implications these difficulties have for the long-term viability of local news. This is the first book to investigate local media policy in a comparative context and the first to systematically assess media localism in Canada and the UK. It combines policy analysis and critical theory to provide for a unique perspective on one of the most challenging policy questions in the media industry: what does it mean to be local?

Christopher is currently a Knight News Innovation Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. He is the Chair of the Communication Law and Policy Division of the International Communication Association and Associate Editor of the journal Communication Law & Policy. He also serves on the Federal Communication Commission’s Communication Equity and Diversity Council Working Group. Previously, he has held fellowships at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society (2019-2020), the Global Future Council of the World Economic Forum (2018), the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communications (CARGC) at the University of Pennsylvania (2017), the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University (2016-2017) and the University of Fribourg in Fribourg Switzerland (2015).