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Industry Reactions to the National Broadband Plan

On March 23, the Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business brought together an all-star cast of telecomm industry representatives to discuss their early reactions to the National Broadband Plan. For the most part they think the Plan is balanced and fact-based, they like the spectrum recommendations in particular, and disagree to what degree the plan deals with USF reform. Perhaps the most interesting question was asked, not of the panel, but of Blair Levin, Executive Director of the FCC's Omnibus Broadband Initiative, who opened the session. He was asked why the plan did not do more to invigorate competition. He stated that there are two events that are going to influence competition (and they do not include requiring open access). The first is DOCSIS 3.0 which will be widely available in the residential market within a few years and promises speeds of up to 100 mbps. The second is the prospect of wireless technologies delivering broadband speeds… wireless might be able to compete with wired in the near future… particularly if the government can free up enough spectrum. He feels the pressure from these two developments will provide the competition required to raise speeds and lower prices.

For the education community, the question was raised about 1 Gbps to anchor institutions. Blair Levin stated that these speeds were needed for institutional broadband because the applications that are becoming available to solve many of our social issues, including education, demand it. When the panel was asked how they felt about proposals such as a UCAN (unified community anchor network) helping to fill that need, Tom Tauke of Verizon described it as a continuation of a normal part of the broadband “ecosystem” as one of many private network systems (seemingly not a threat to commercial providers). Is it overly optimistic to interpret this as an early overture of support? Could this mean that industry might be willing to partner with the research and education community to help extend really big capacity to all anchor institutions? Maybe, and maybe not. But the dance has begun.

Participants in the session were: James Cicconi, senior executive vice president at AT&T; Robert Crandall, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Thomas Lenard, president of the Technology Policy Institute; Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association; John Mayo, executive director of the Georgetown Center; Peter Pitsch, executive director of communications at Intel; Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project; Gregory Rosston, deputy director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; Robert Shapiro, senior fellow at the Georgetown Center; Thomas Tauke, executive vice president of Verizon; and Joseph Waz, senior vice president of Comcast

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