Susan P. Crawford

Harvard Law Professor & Telecommunications Policy & Law Expert

Susan P. Crawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School. She is the author of Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm, Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It, Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, co-author of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance, a contributor to Wired, and an expert in tech, public policy, and how they affect our lives. She served as Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (2009) and co-led the FCC transition team between the Bush and Obama administrations. She also served as a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Advisory Council on Technology and Innovation and is now a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Broadband Task Force. Crawford was formerly a (Visiting) Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard’s Kennedy School, a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, and a Professor at the University of Michigan Law School (2008-2010). As an academic, she teaches courses about climate adaptation and public leadership, internet law and communications law. She was a member of the board of directors of ICANN from 2005-2008 and is the founder of OneWebDay, a global Earth Day for the internet that takes place each Sept. 22. She is one of Politico’s 50 Thinkers, Doers, and Visionaries Transforming Politics (2015); one of Time magazine’s Tech 40: The Most Influential Minds in Tech (2013); one of Prospect magazine’s Top Ten Brains of the Digital Future (2011); and one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology; IP3 Awardee (2010). Crawford is a sought-after keynote speaker for tech conferences, universities, trade associations, policy arenas, and local city government and civic groups across the country.

In Charleston, Crawford details how Charleston’s streets now find themselves underwater one day out of five with much higher sea levels and chronic inundation inevitable in the years ahead. Yet like many of their counterparts globally, government and business leaders in Charleston prefer denial or wildly inadequate countermeasures, even as they make the problem worse with a growth-at-any-cost philosophy that prizes real estate development above all else. As with most environmental disasters, it is the poor and people of color who will pay the heaviest price. As befits a city that hosted one of the largest slave markets in the US and where the Civil War began, Charleston’s refusal to face the reality of rising seas is already disproportionately hurting its Black residents. National leadership is needed to set coastal residents in Charleston—and elsewhere—on a dignified path to safety through gradual withdrawal from shorelines. Weaving science, narrative history, and the family stories of Black Charlestonians, Charleston chronicles the tumultuous recent past in the life of the city while illuminating the escalating riskiness of its future.

In Fiber, the follow up to Captive Audience, Crawford explains how the world of fiber optic connections reaching neighborhoods, homes, and businesses will represent as great a change from what came before as the advent of electricity. The virtually unlimited amounts of data we’ll be able to send and receive through fiber optic connections will enable a degree of virtual presence that will radically transform health care, education, urban administration and services, agriculture, retail sales, and offices. Yet all of those transformations will pale compared with the innovations and new industries that we can’t even imagine today. In a fascinating account combining policy expertise and compelling on-the-ground reporting, Susan Crawford reveals how the giant corporations that control cable and internet access in the United States use their tremendous lobbying power to tilt the playing field against competition, holding back the infrastructure improvements necessary for the country to move forward. And she shows how a few cities and towns are fighting monopoly power to bring the next technological revolution to their communities.

In Captive Audience Crawford shows why Americans are now paying much more but getting much less when it comes to high-speed Internet access. Using the 2011 merger between Comcast and NBC Universal as a lens, Crawford examines how we have created the biggest monopoly since the breakup of Standard Oil a century ago. In the clearest terms, she explores how telecommunications monopolies have affected the daily lives of consumers and America’s global economic standing.

In Responsive City Crawford highlights the promising intersection of government and data through vivid case studies featuring municipal pioneers and big data success stories from Boston, Chicago, New York, and more. She provides the ultimate resource for public officials, government staff, and civic leaders to understand how to leverage new technologies and data platforms to fulfill the promise of effective and efficient local government.

Susan Crawford received her B.A. and J.D. from Yale University. She served as a clerk for Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and was a partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now Wilmer Hale) (Washington, D.C.) until the end of 2002, when she left that firm to enter the legal academy. Crawford lives in New York City and Cambridge, MA.

Praise for Susan Crawford

“Susan Crawford is an exceptional public speaker, and we were fortunate to have her deliver the keynote address at our 2018 Annual General Meeting. Not only is she a dynamic, knowledgeable and captivating presence on stage, but she has the rare ability to take her area of expertise and tailor it to our audience of insurance industry executives. Her address truly resonated with attendees, generating an animated Q&A period and a great deal of conversation during the cocktail reception that followed. I would recommend her to any group.”

—CSIO (Center for Study of Insurance Operations, Canada)

Praise for Charleston

“Crawford’s book stands apart from its predecessors because of its sustained focus on one threatened city. Charleston is a fascinating and haunted locale, and Crawford is gifted at sketching its grossness and grace.”

New York Times Book Review

“Crawford’s book about Charleston’s imminent coastal climate crisis, intertwined with the city’s racial issues, is truly an eye-opener. Crawford’s writing style is clear and engaging, and she deftly involves the reader in the problems she addresses. An engaging book on the important national intersection of racism and the natural environment. Ideal for book discussion groups or city-wide reading.”

Library Journal, starred review

“Crawford persuasively links the precarious pos ition of the city’s Black neighborhoods to other legacies of slavery and racism, including segregated schools and a lack of affordable housing for low-and middle-income families. By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, this is an eye-opening look behind Charleston’s genteel facade.”

Publishers Weekly

“Crawford’s Charleston shows how important it is to consider the ways in which the legacies of slavery and racism have shaped and continue to shape the city’s response (and non-response) to its precarious environmental position.”

—Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of On Juneteenth, from the introduction

“Days after reading Susan Crawford’s masterful Charleston: Race, Water and the Coming Storm, I found myself telling strangers impromptu anecdotes about the South Carolina coastal city. This is a fascinating, in-depth, soul-searching look at a beautiful city with a dark past and an uncertain future. It’s a book that I wish every community could have for facing economic inequality, racial injustice and climate change. In a blend of history, policy, science and journalism, Crawford brings Charleston to life and reveals why the city is a harbinger for the United States and the world.”

—Laura Trethewey, author of Imperiled Ocean

“In Charleston, Crawford once again asks us not to look away, detailing the inner life of a city’s legacy of racism, and calling into question whether that history will drown Black and low-income residents in the present tense, as waters rise, and levees break across Charleston and America’s coastal cities. This is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve turned its final page.”

—Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, author of From Generosity to Justice

“Charleston is a ghost story for the climate age, a sweeping and unflinching analysis of how a history of racism, greed, and political cowardice is creating a wet dystopian future for an iconic American city. Read this book and you’ll understand the enormity of the challenges that coastal cities face in a rapidly warming world, and why people are fighting for change before it’s too late.”

—Jeff Goodell, bestselling author of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

“An important and prescient book, presenting a clear-eyed view of the inevitable track of sea level rise and how it intersects with the historic and present issues of race in Charleston. The precarious situation in which this low-lying city finds itself is a microcosm of many other cities by a rising sea. But this is a story of people and not just policy. Crawford gives due attention to Black voices and the neighborhoods that are receiving the brunt of climate-driven flooding. The case for a retreat from land in jeopardy and the need to plan for future dense, affordable development on high, dry ground are eloquently expressed. A powerful portrait of the cost of climate denial coming due.”

—David Goodrich, former head of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Observations & Monitoring Program, former Director, UN Global Climate Observing System, and author of On Freedom Road 

Praise for Fiber

“A damning indictment, grounded in facts, and a critically important story…. Even for those familiar with the subject, Fiber offers a number of valuable insights…. Crawford is at her best when describing the astonishingly innovative organizational setups of community-based fiber initiatives and how they came about, when detailing the machinations of telecom incumbents and their lobbyists to cripple these initiatives, and when explaining how local champions of fiber have sometimes been able to neutralize attempts to derail them.”

—Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Science

“If we can just finish the last mile for fiber to reach into households, Susan Crawford shows, we can unleash a revolution of economic growth, education, and health, and address inequality in a whole new way. Crawford shifts effortlessly from the heights of policy to the literal ground level and shows us the way.”

—Anthony Marx, President, New York Public Library

“Deeply reported and passionately argued… Crawford’s book is a call to action.”

Inside Higher Ed

“A timely and urgent look at how America is sacrificing its digital future, productivity, connectivity, social mobility, entrepreneurial growth, education, and every other public good, thanks to rapacious telcos, scumbag lobbyists, and negligent, cash-hungry politicians….You should be reading this.”

—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“Engaging and accessible … An indictment of national regulatory politics and crony capitalism and a love story about the plucky local governments overcoming the odds to bring their own communities into the twenty-first century. A microcosm of what ails America—and what nonetheless can give us hope.”

—Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School

“Crawford convinces with impeccable journalism and empathetic portraits of rural communities and low-income cities in distress, the ails of which could be much alleviated by a large-scale federal investment in fiber optic connections . . .  Crawford’\’s work is both refreshing and potent in how it clinically identifies the problem, and proposes a straightforward, feasible solution.”

Publishers Weekly

“Essential reading.”                                                          —Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)

“By vividly describing a world filled with fiber-enabled technology as well as the perils and possibilities for achieving it, Susan Crawford has written a playbook for a fairer and more prosperous United States.”

—Andy Berke, Mayor, Chattanooga, Tennessee

“Crawford establishes a compelling case for the necessity of affordable fiber and running it to homes throughout the U.S. … Crawford’s book can serve as a primer on the benefits of a technology often shrouded in jargon.”

—Berkshire Eagle 

Praise for Captive Audience

“Captive Audience held this reader captive from beginning to end. The broad themes make for compelling reading, but the entertainment value is in plots and subplots worthy of a thriller. Crawford also has a flair for making even difficult material understandable. Anyone who can make a page or so of easy reading from something as arcane yet important as telephone pole attachments should be up for a writers’ prize of some sort.”

—Michael J. Copps (Former FCC Commissioner), The Nation

“Crawford’s book is the most important volume to be released in the last few years that describes the sad—some might say embarrassing—state of the U.S. telecommunications market. Reasonable people can and do disagree about policy solutions, but the facts are not in dispute…a vivid and eye-opening description of what ails America’s cable and telecom market…it should be required reading for anyone interested in tech policy.”

Sam Gustin, Time

“Susan Crawford’s new book, Captive Audience, details a host of challenges for the internet and its users as this network enters middle age… As our internet grows up, we need to look to the future and figure out ways to make it better. There is a role for activism and advocacy, but also one for our government to promote the public interest by ensuring that every American can participate in a free and fair communications market.”

Tim Karr, Huffington Post

Praise for The Responsive City

“In these pages, Goldsmith and Crawford expertly chronicle the now-global movement to improve governance through technology. Chicago embraced that movement early to become the leader in effectively leveraging data to meet the demand for a more responsive city.”

—Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago

“Steve Goldsmith and Susan Crawford offer a fascinating report from the frontier of innovation in government with the engaging stories of citizens working to replace the bureaucratic systems of the past with effective and accountable government for the twenty-first century.”

—Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives

“Focusing on outcomes for (and with) the public instead of compliance with rigid procedures is the hard work of local government in the twenty-first century. Goldsmith and Crawford show the way with real-world examples and an infectious optimism. This book matters to everyone who cares not just about city hall but about trust and faith in government in the modern era.”

—Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director, Code for America; former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer