A National Imperative: Broadband Everywhere by 2010
January 15, 2002
By John Earnhardt, Cisco Government Affairs
Today, TechNet, the high-tech industry's political and policy trade group co-founded by Cisco in 1997, announced its approach to a US broadband policy.
On a teleconference, TechNet unveiled its six broadband principles. Cisco president and CEO, John Chambers, represented Cisco on the call. Others on the call included: Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel Corporation; John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers; Eric Benhamou, Chairman, 3Com & Palm; Rick White, CEO of TechNet; Paul Gudonis, CEO of Genuity; Bob Herbold, COO & Executive Vice President of Microsoft and Milo Medin, CTO of Excite@Home.
The newly unveiled principles were developed by TechNet's Broadband Task Force, of which CEO John Chambers was a part. "What we've learned in this downturn is that the U.S. economy and the high-tech industry rise and fall together," said Chambers. "Our fates are intertwined. We believe that in order for the economy to recover quickly, it is necessary for government and high-tech to work together. We now must work together to deliver broadband to the entire nation by 2010. This must be a national imperative. It is not only a matter of future economic development, but the responsibility we have as a nation to deliver the Internet opportunity across all socio-economic groups."
Cisco's top public policy goal is increasing the adoption of broadband. However, there are currently regulatory and policy hurdles in the way of increasing broadband's swift adoption by the marketplace. There are many bills before Congress dealing with the roll-out of broadband, as well as how rural and underserved communities could access broadband, but many in Congress anecdotally admit that they are not sure what broadband actually is or does.
"Educating policymakers is key to our success," said Laura Ipsen, Cisco vice president, Worldwide Government Affairs. "We decided the best strategy would be to let policymakers know the positive economic and social impacts that broadband can bring. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, workers with broadband are 270% more productive than workers using dial-up. The more productive you are, the stronger your economy. That information resonates with policymakers."
In addition to the discussions around broadband, its impact on productivity and economic growth, several other broadband applications were presented for discussion including:
Education - "E-learning" can have a tremendous impact on all children, especially in disadvantaged communities, or for those with physical or mental impairments that require specialized learning, or for single parents working to move up in the world.
Medicine - Researchers can collaborate on research in ways that are not presently possible. Aggregating computing power across the country could accelerate discoveries, allowing for faster cures to both common and uncommon diseases. The expertise of leading doctors will be available to patients in the most remote regions of the country, reducing costs and improving healthcare even in the most rural regions of the U.S.
Business - Nationwide, broadband will revolutionize large and small businesses. Access to information is imperative to business; think about the impact that roads and rails have had on every kind of business. Similarly, broadband will allow businesses to dramatically change the way in which they serve customers, manufacture goods and manage the bottom line.
Entertainment - Consumers will have a range of new entertainment choices, from Web delivery of movies on demand, to realistic on-line games, to sharing of high-quality home videos and photographs. The possibilities are limitless.
Cisco believes that the United States needs to make broadband a priority and to set a national goal to achieve that end. TechNet advocates the goal of making a 100 megabit per second broadband connection available to 100 million homes and small businesses by 2010.
TechNet has developed six principles that will help spur the rollout of broadband across the country. The principles, as released today, are:
First, broadband policy should be "technology neutral." Government should not pick technology winners and losers. Instead, competition should drive the deployment of a range of broadband technologies and services to consumers.
Second, policymakers should exercise regulatory restraint to encourage the development of new broadband applications and services. We want new and compelling "killer applications" to drive consumer demand for broadband, which will, in turn, spur investment in the network. The FCC should refrain from regulating advanced services that are essential drivers of broadband, such as voice and video over the Internet.
While industry will drive much of broadband's growth, government should be a leading user of broadband, through it own procurement and e-government investments in education, health, and other traditional governmental services.
Third, public policy should create an environment in which all consumers can choose among multiple providers of broadband networks. Much of the broadband progress we have already achieved required significant capital outlays. To get true broadband for everyone, an additional $300 billion must be invested.. And this investment will not happen in an uncertain regulatory environment, not by corporations or by investors. In this environment, government regulation will have the most significant impact and good government means regulatory certainty.
Fourth, states and local governments should streamline the building of broadband networks. Greater intrastate and interstate consistency should be encouraged. Most importantly, companies building high-speed networks should gain rights of way and be relatively free of regulatory restraints and excessive fees. The primary goal of state and local policy should be to encourage deployment of broadband to as many citizens as possible - not merely to generate government revenues by taxes or tariffs.
Fifth, properly allocating spectrum for valuable wireless Internet applications is critical for competition among multiple broadband technologies - and the availability of broadband to rural communities. We need a national spectrum policy using market-based approaches to allocate spectrum to the highest-value applications. Government revenue generation should be secondary.
Sixth, even as we accelerate broadband deployment some of the U.S. population, including rural Americans, will be left behind. We support targeted incentives to encourage broadband deployment to underserved communities and businesses.
"We find ourselves at a crossroads," says Ipsen. "The path that we take as a nation this year will impact this country's economic development for many years to come. Working with industry groups, such as TechNet; customers, partners and the government, our recommendation for the path to take is the one that leads to broadband everywhere in America by 2010."