Notes from EDUCAUSE Broadband Conference

[These notes are the author’s summation, not direct quotes from speakers, and are not intended for attribution.]

FCC Commissioner Copps
We missed the mark on broadband policy, because we lack a national deployment strategy.
No other country has taken such a “carefree” attitude
We have ignored history of infrastructure in this country – roads, railways, and so on
New infrastructure is every bit if not more important than previous challenges, but we have taken a hands off approach
Commitment, Strategy, and Partnerships – private sector should be leader, but Congress and all levels of government must work to encourage penetration.
Openness is critical
Openness in wireless platforms is in a rulemaking before the FCC, and we can act on that right now
“Eagerly await the results” of Comcast complaint and application of Broadband Policy Statement
We spent many years wondering what the killer app for broadband would be to drive adoption – it turns out that “the killer app is value-laden broadband”

EDUCAUSE Steve Worona
Why does it matter to us?
We started internetworking, passing packets since the 1960s
We care because as students ,teachers, universities, we know power of fast broadband, but we also live with slower speeds at home and elsewhere. Big broadband matters beyond the university – it must be universal

John Windhausen Jr. – Telepoly Consulting, author of paper
Broadband crisis
Take rates low, declining relative to other countries, but that’s not where we are at great crisis
Crisis is policymaking apparatus – no structure to turn the ship around and make progress
Three recent studies predict that Americans will need at least 100 mbps
Nemertes Research, Jupiter Resarch, Technology Futures studies
JW suggests we will need 100 mbps sooner than some think, within next 5-7 years or so
Capacity shortages are already an issue
Time Warner – per bit pricing
Comcast & BitTorrent “delays”
Dept. of Commerce reports in 2002: current generation of DSL and cable modem technologies are woefully inadequate for future needs
Last ten years: Deregulatory philosophy – marketplace will take care of it…
OECD study shows US is declining relative to other countries
Lower GDP/person countries are beating us.
Even countries with less dense populations (Norway, Canada, Austrlia, Sweden, Finland, Iceland) are beating us (i.e., “rurality” is not an excuse)
Broadband what is it good for? EVERYTHING
Telemedicine, telework, legal file sharing, music lessons, HDTV, scientific research, cid conferencing, lectures, social networking
???? – the innovations we cannot yet predict.
Solutions: Possible strategies
Marketplace alone is not enough
US is behind in investment for broadband
Carriers and investors require strong evidence of demand
Broadband creates positive externalities – value not captured directly, so not accounted for by individual carriers or users
State Governors stepping up, but not enough
public dollars for funding , but focus on rural areas with existing technologies (not fiber)
Other nations had a plan and have succeeded
Japan focusing on fiber
France: unbundling, highly competitive, new entrants for fiber
UK: trailed France, then adopted unbundling and wholesale/separation
Sweden
Canada: adopted national broadband plan in 2001; decided to treat broadband as infrastructure; funded 3 separate national programs (national satellite initiative, strategic infrastructure fund, broadband for rural and northern development [BRAND]). 1/3 funding from National, 1/3 from provinces, 1/3 from private sector
JW considers infrastructure fund key, particularly as an organizing principle – like roads, electricity
What can the U.S. Learn? An 8 Point Plan
1. Political leaders and policymakers must set goals (such as 100 mbps to every home by 2012) and adopt national broadband plan to meet them.
2. Create an organization (Broadband Council) of government officials to carry out the policy
3. Incentives, including tax incentives
4. Universal Broadband Fund – the key.
Existing programs are inadequate, cannot be shoehorned into USF
Broadband is one time investment expense – operating costs will be cheaper than with today’s networks. That means a fund on deployment cost would be appropriate.
Local access, not backhaul or backbone
Public-private partnership, a la Canada
5. Openness
Network operators should not block or degrade traffic (i.e., some version of net neutrality principles)
6. Rights of way reform and Muni fiber encouraged
7.Consumer education
8. Greater funding for research and development
Sum: 8 billion dollars over 4 years, which could do the job for decades
Is that a lot? Current stimulus package is 450 billion

Panel #1: Commentary
Jim Baller, Baller-Herbst Law
Jeff Kuhns, Associate Vice Provost for IT, The Pennsylvania State University (JK)
Charles Leonhardt, Principal Technologist, Georgetown University (CL)
Michael Kende, Analysys (MK)
David Quam, Director of Federal Affairs, National Governor’s Assoc. (DQ)

JK: big broadband key to distance learning, dealing with huge datasets and multimedia
CL: Again, big broadband key to both distance learning and research
MK:
In Europe, innovation can be riven by alternative providers using local loop unbudling
However, open regulatory issues relating to fiber deployment
Elsewhere, facilities based competitors
Japan & Korea with fiber; Singapore with DOCSIS 3.0 (upgraded cabel)
In US, AT&T and VZW laying FTTN and FTTH – combined, will be about 36 million homes in next few years
Although the cost for FTTx are high, the demand is different than for DSL – triple play has lower churn levels, and higher average revenue per user, and higher addressable market (more people have want and pay for Pay TV than broadband today)
Denser areas has led to investment in deployment, but rural areas still not getting attention.
Key issue: 85-90% can get a broadband provider that meets OECD guidelines, but only 55% take it
Demand matters, not just supply – question: can supply-side policies in this paper work with this in mind?
DQ:
States need action plans like this one. Role of state and local gov’t is key; fed gov’t is really good at forest, but really bad at the trees (actual implementation).

JW’s response to MK:
Price – if we had lower prices (comparable to those in other countries) we’d have upgraded subscribership.
Once on the network, they will want to keep it – consumer education is key, demonstrating benefits of broadband connection

MK: but can FTTx and DOCSIS 3.0 get U.S. a lot of the way forward, for the consumers who right now do demand it?

Question: What issues will there be going forward in EU?

MK: EC says that FTTx may need to be open to competitors. Different architectures have different unbundling challenges, and carriers would prefer not to unbundled.
JW: Not fair to say that European are not installing fiber. Sweden already there; Some French competitors are installing it competitively; Ireland has innovative plan. Regulation is uncertain though

Q: How would this plan impact what came before?
JW: Perfect world – open access and net neutrality applied to all networks. But public funding needs to help drive the deployment process, and for that we need to come up with a different idea of a universal fund.

Michael Calabrese, New America Foundation: What about wireless? To be truly ubiquitous, wireless is a piece.

Apps panel, selected bits
John Hughes, GOSN, and Tom Spengler, Granicus, note problems with guaranteeing quality.
Gary Bachula: reminds us Internet2’s finding that with a bigger, less congested pipe you don’t need QoS/network management.
John Hughes: Bigger pipe also means you don’t need better compression.

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