Broadband Investment Creating Buzz at CES

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The Consumer Electronic Show might draw a crowd for the gadgets, but the folks who work on the policies that power all of the latest applications are gathered here as well.  The first of many sessions on the policy track (produced in partnership with Tech Policy Central) this morning assembled the following panelists to talk about “Making Nationwide Deployment & Adoption of Broadband a Reality,” and investment was a key theme.

  • Susan Crawford, Professor of Law and Professor of Information, University of Michigan
  • Neil Fried, Telecommunications Counsel, U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • Amy Levine, Telecom aide to Rep. Rich Boucher (D-VA)
  • 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

Moderator Steve Wildstrom kicked off the session asking panelists what they believe is actually at stake when it comes to broadband.  The range of answers reflected many of the topics we discuss on NextGenWeb, including jobs, the economy, healthcare, government participation, international competitiveness, health care, and so much more.  Neil Fried, of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, took that question as the opportunity to remind the audience just how far we’ve come with broadband.  “We’re doing pretty well considering where we started from.  We have 90% of the country with access to 10-megabits,” he said urging broadband is relatively new.  “Broadband is really still about market investment.”

As the moderator moved the conversation into broadband speeds, the panelists urged for scalability to ensure that our networks can deliver the applications in the future, not just for the sake of technology, but because consumers will demand it.

But how we achieve a network that meets innovation and consumer demands is still in question.  Public/private partnerships seem to be the solution.  Anna Gomez of NTIA wants to get deployment done fast and right, noting they continue to roll out broadband grants at their targeted pace for completion by Sept.30.  Again, Fried tied the conversation back to private investment, noting that $60 billion came from private investment and that government money is meant to fill gaps.  A notion that was also referred to somewhat by NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling at last year’s Supernova Conference, when he referenced these broadband grants as “seed monies” for middle and last-mile projects.  Important context around the importance of public-private partnerships as it relates to the future of the Internet.

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