Originally published: March 21, 2011
Last updated: March 21, 2011 - 9:15pm
The one-year anniversary of the National Broadband Plan was marked by a number of conferences. I spoke at several. In each, I tried to address a different question.
In the first, hosted by the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies, I looked at how we should approach increasing adoption. While I am very proud of the plan, on this issue, I have rethought what we did and think the approach we proposed will not work, and that there is a better way. Our approach, based on the voice-related issues of availability and cost are not the right foundation for broadband related issues in which, in addition to availability and cost, we must address use and training. I set out a four-step program that I hope will help reframe the debate, as we need a workable program to solve this problem.
In the second, an investor conference, I looked at some competition issues raised by Professor Susan Crawford in her article on “The Looming Cable Monopoly.” Her piece was based entirely on data from the plan. She didn't misuse the data but, as I discuss in my talk, I think she errs in projecting how she thinks the market will unfold. Projecting data forward is always a tricky business. If it weren't, stock picking would be both easy and not very lucrative. I think cable is in a very strong position, as it was for broadband a decade ago, but I am skeptical it is on the verge of a monopoly. Professor Crawford turns what I think of as a possibility not only into a probability but, further, into a certainty.
In the third conference, held by the Federal Communications Bar Association, I tried to explain what I thought was the core vision of the plan. While many think the core vision should be about faster wireline networks to homes, the speech explains how we were aiming toward high performance knowledge exchange. In sum, the idea is this: The core task for our economy and civic society is knowledge exchange. We gather information, analyze it, act on it, and then through a feedback loop, continually revise courses of action. Three revolutions in the last two decades have dramatically transformed knowledge exchange: the data revolution, the computing revolution, and the communications revolution. This knowledge exchange revolution affects every sector of the economy and every institution that constitutes our civic society.
And finally I spoke at a conference put on by Columbia and Georgetown Universities. My purpose in this one was to put the plan in the context of policy development make that case that, as we often said during the process, “plan beats no plan.” The speech describes how, properly understood, the plan was an agenda setting, target-clarifying device. That is, the plan was a process whose endpoint was to lay out—particularly for the stakeholders—an agenda for action. Further, the plan details policy targets to aim for–in the sense of policies to adopt–or aim at, in the sense of policies to shoot at and propose better alternatives. The speech also tries to provide a framework for how to judge the progress of the plan’s implementation
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