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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Summary of Tech Policy Summit Panel 1 at CES: Future of Broadband
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I'm attending the Tech Policy Summit at CES in Las Vegas today and tomorrow. Lots of good discussions. The focus of the first panel, which was entitled, "Making Nationwide Deployment and Adoption of Broadband a Reality," was what we should expect from the National Broadband Plan. This is particularly timely as the FCC just announced today it would be delaying the rollout of the plan.

This TPS session was moderated by technology journalist Steve Wildstrom. The panelists were:

  • Susan Crawford, Professor of Law and Professor of Information, University of Michigan

  • Neil Fried, Senior Telecommunications Counsel, U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce

  • Anna Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, NTIA

  • Karen Jackson, Deputy Secretary of Technology, Commonwealth of Virginia

  • Carlos Kirjner, Senior Advisor to the Chairman, FCC

  • Andrew McLaughlin, Deputy CTO, Internet Policy, OSTP

Below is my summary of what each of the panelists had to say.

Anna Gomez - National Telecommunications & Information Association

  • NTIA grant program is "unprecedented"

  • Want to get grants right, so that's why slow to roll them out

  • announced new tool "Broadband Match" to facilitate partnership among applicants for grants

Carlos Kirjner - Federal Communications Commission

  • Objective of universaslity; everyone should have access

  • To build as platform to enable the country to compete going forward & allow greater civic engagement

  • We need faster broadband to cope with new applications

  • Need it to encourage the next generation of innovators

Susan Crawford - Univ. of Michigan & former White House advisor

  • relationship with job creation

  • administration-wide focus on the issue

  • Concern about market power

  • Need new spectrum to help; will come from many sources; need more efficient use of spectrum

  • Spectrum itself is not the sole solution to the national broadband problem

  • Need more fiber for greater speeds

  • It's not in financial interest of private companies to invest more in the fiber backhaul to towers

  • Need a new regulatory framework but Telecom Act reform unlikely; FCC will have to work within existing framework

  • Would take 5-10 years to reopen and revise the Telecom Act

  • today there is "transport" and "everything else" instead of silos

  • Re: Net neutrality... need clear rules; will help investment; NN not radical

  • NN regulation needed because of consolidation in broadband market

Neil Fried - House Energy & Commerce minority counsel

  • Broadband has been a bright spot in a down economy

  • Growth of networks, speed, and availability

  • But growing the networks is expensive

  • Lots of private investment

  • Hopes the Broadband Plan will keep this in mind

  • Too much focus on Net neutrality

  • Need to focus on incentivizing investment

  • We should rely on what consumers tell us they demand to figure out where to go

  • Not all consumers need same amount of broadband; demand varies

  • The stimulus bill gave the NTIA an "impossible task" and an "impossible timeframe" to target grants

  • Not clear we need a new Telecom Act even though the old one is so out of date

  • Not clear we need a centralized plan

  • Net neutrality regulation could hurt investment

  • DOJ filing has no evidence of market failure; need more market analysis

  • Plenty of access to broadband; may be other causes for lack of take-up

  • Don't want govt picking winners and losers; edge is favored over the center

Amy Levine - House Energy & Commerce majority counsel

  • Need a roadmap to universal access

  • Benefits economy-wide

  • Needs to be "meaningful" broadband (faster)

  • Like of bandwidth needed for new apps is going to increase dramatically; today's speeds won't be enough in a couple of years

  • Lots more "cord cutting" going on; migration to wireless increasing accordingly

  • Need better idea of spectrum availability; spectrum inventory bill mentioned

  • Hard to reach rural areas will still be hard to reach with wireless; wireless will not be an easy substitute for wireline

  • Telecom Act of 1996 not well-suited for modern realities; "silo-based" approach to technologies and players no longer makes sense in age of convergence.

Karen Jackson - Dept Sec of Technology, Commonwealth of Virginia's Technology Division

  • Glad to have feds more involved now

  • States trying to figure out what role they play

  • Affordability issue is important for rural and depressed areas

  • Need more towers; feds and states need to work together to encourage better diffusion

  • Federal grants may be offsetting private investment; they would "rather spend the government's money rather than their own"

  • Satellites not part of the solution for Virginia

Andrew McLaughlin, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

  • What's at stake is the economic future of the country

  • Good news: globe is getting better interconnected; communications getting cheaper for the whole world

  • Bad news: going to put more pressure on US to stay in lead; our baseline competitive advantage is going to slip

  • How to keep up as rest of world advances?

  • On spectrum... shared spectrum techniques are going to be essential; Shannon's Law means we need more flexible, dynamic approach to spectrum

  • Spectrum only scarce because of "stupid receivers" (cites David Reed)

  • Femtocells will be part of future

  • Satellite technology has too much latency for high-speed broadband

  • Doubts that Net neutrality will hurt network investment

posted by Adam Thierer @ 3:58 PM | Broadband

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