Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Community Planning (MCP)


Community Planning and Area Development


New theories which describe the city in terms of communications patterns, accompanied by the advent of new communications technology, especially that of cable communications, have posed new problems for planners; there is a need for their intervention into the planning process for communications systems to define communications goals, measure impacts of the technology on urban life, and use the technology in the public interest.

Although few experiments in communications planning exist, new towns, such as Columbia, Maryland, the subject of this case study, have promised to be good vehicles for experiments in that the new town setting presumably eliminates many of the barriers to planning for communications systems which exist in other cities.

In Columbia, planning for a cable system was part of a larger communications planning framework, including institutional and design communications-related goals as well as the cable system. Although the cable system planning in Columbia failed, the consideration of the implementation of the other goals sheds light on the policy behind the CATV situation and helps the planner to better understand the role of the cable system within a broader communications planning background.

Thus, the thesis first describes the goals developed in the communications planning in Columbia, then the implementation of the goals, first, the indirect, institutional and design related goals: new citizen orientation, developer/ citizen relations, village center communications, neighborhood face-to-face contact, telephones, ·newspapers, and printing facilities. While these goals were attained to a large extent, the intended social benefits with respect to communications itself were not in all cases realized.

Then, the analysis proceeds to describe the CATV situation in Columbia. Here the planning process can be termed a failure due to developer mistakes: lack of coordinated plans, failure to install cable equipment during initial development, failure to negotiate with Howard County, and failure to include the citizens in the planning process.

Thus, the paper concludes that the communications planning process as a whole was insufficient to influence communications system development in Columbia from its beginnings to the present or to guide its development in the future, because, in essence 1 the barriers to effective planning were not overcome. Goals were vague and implementation not coordinated. New town authority was preempted by county regulation, resulting in an economically motivated county decision. Communications structures have developed incrementally, independent of centralized planning, and communications planning has been performed only in response to expressed dissatisfaction and problem areas.

The analysis concludes with recommendations to improve Columbia's communications planning process in particular, and to guide communications planners in this field in general.



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