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“American’s Internet Disconnect” by Michael J. Copps

SAN JOSE, CA – Wow. Seriously. WOW!! If you haven’t yet read today’s editorial in The Washington Post by FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, READ IT. I don’t know Copps, but I think this may be love at first sight.Here’s the lede: “America’s record in expanding broadband communication is so poor that it should be viewed as an outrage by every consumer and businessperson in the country. Too few of us have broadband connections, and those who do pay too much for service that is too slow. It’s hurting our economy, and things are only going to get worse if we don’t do something about it.”As our CEO John Chambers said on stage with Senator John McCain last week, the definition that the FCC has for broadband is ridiculous at 200Kpbs. Copps says, “Today the agency’s (The FCC’s) reports seem designed mostly to obscure the fact that we are falling behind the rest of the world. The FCC still defines broadband as 200 kilobits per second, assumes that if one person in a Zip code area has access to broadband then everyone does and fails to gather any data on pricing.”Read the full editorial now and let’s hope that the Democrats do something about this in the new Congress.

The John and John Show: McCain and Chambers Talk Innovation

SAN JOSE, CA – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Cisco President and CEO John Chambers shared a stage on Friday at the San Jose Convention Center at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Annual Public Policy luncheon. Stephen Wright, editor of the San Jose Mercury News editorial page, questioned the pair about R&D, Immigration, What’s Going Right and more. No, not that Steven Wright.When asked by Wright what was the one thing that Congress could do to make the biggest impact to innovation the responses were thus: (I’m paraphrasing)McCain: Immigration reform. We need to get more H1-B workers in the US in order to have the educated workers available in the innovation creating jobs.Chambers: Broadband. We need to put the rhetoric on the back burner and need to focus on making broadband a priority in the United States. We need a national broadband plan. We need to change the current FCC broadband measurement of 200Kpbs to 100 or even 500 times faster. The U.S. is falling behind on broadband and without leadership and focus we will continue to do so. McCain: I agree with John.So, will broadband be back on the front burner in 2007 in Congress? It remains to be seen, but the White House and the FCC could go a long way by creating a new measurement of broadband (not the current “fast dial-up” of 200Kpbs that currently constitutes broadband as measured by the FCC) so we can actually see where we truly rank in the world. We’ve been doing okay if you measure how many new subscribers there are to broadband, but, as noted, the measurement of what is broadband is a lot slower in the U.S. than it is elsewhere in the world, so we are being lulled a bit in a false sense of where we truly rank in the world. The truth of matter is that until fiber is the last mile, we will continue to measure broadband in Kpbs instead of Mbps in this country. There is a duopoly between cable and telephony right now and, sure, a third competitor in the broadband space would be swell, but until we incent service providers to build fiber to the home we, as a nation, will not more forward in the broadband race. And, yes, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the fact that if net neutrality is passed into law that companies would have even less reason to invest in the next generation networks that will provide true broadband. And, yes, that would put us further behind in the broadband race. Why does this matter you say? Let’s say you want to locate your new business in a country that has the proper infrastructure. You want good roads. You want good ports. You want good water, electricity, services, etc. You also want good broadband. If country “A” has all of the above and 100Mbps broadband service to every household and country “B” (as Borat says, “the US and A”) has all but the broadband, then, you can expect that those jobs will start going to country A. That’s why.I would be even more remiss if I didn’t mention that the luncheon also honored longtime Applied Materials CEO and Chairman Jim Morgan for his service to Silicon Valley. He was also a longtime member of Cisco’s Board of Directors. You can see the Mercury News story here.

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren: “Congress on Technology Issues: All Talk and No Action”

SAN JOSE, CA – I bring your attention to an op-ed penned by one of San Jose’s very own Congressional representatives, Zoe Lofgren, that ran in yesterday’s San Jose Mercury News. Entitled, “Congress on technology issues: all talk and no action,” it walks through an argument of why, in her mind, this Congress hasn’t gotten anything done on technology issues. Her lede is politically focused, “As we approach the November elections, America’s technology leaders should be asking what the 109th Congress has done for the tech sector and American innovation. From my perspective, the answer is a whole lot of talk, and not nearly enough action.” However, among other points, she makes a great point on patent reform lower in the piece, “…legislation to reform the patent system, introduced over a year ago, has yet to move out of a House subcommittee. Parasitic patent lawsuits continue unabated, yielding windfall profits for holders of questionable patents and raising the costs of creating new technologies.”As the elections are a week away and we head to the polling place (or in my case, vote via permanent absentee), we all SHOULD be asking if our Representatives are “representing” us…so Rep. Lofgren is asking the right question.Read the full piece here.

DVR Alert!!! Cisco’s Robert Pepper on C-SPAN

SAN JOSE, CA – So, you’re interested in telecom policy and telecom history. You haven’t had a date on a Saturday in ages. You need something to do on your Saturday evening. Have I got an answer for you!! My colleague, Dr. Robert Pepper, Cisco’s Senior Managing Director of Global Technology Policy, is appearing on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” program this Saturday at 6:30PM ET.cspan logo.jpgSeriously, if you already have Saturday plans, set your DVR (or if you prefer, VCR) and record this half-hour interview with the man we all know as “Pepper.” He has been at Cisco for a little over a year, having joined us after a 19 year career at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) where he was Chief of Policy Development, and will be appearing on C-SPAN’s new series on communications. Past interviewees on this series include: Craig Newmark of Craig’s List, Jeffrey Citron of Vonage, and Senator John Ensign (R-NV). The interview will also be available on podcast.More information on C-SPAN’s website here.Program schedule:Saturday, October 28 6:30 pm ET, C-SPANMonday, October 29 , 8:00 am ET and 8:00 pm ET on C-SPAN2

Net Neutrality: How can you tell if a lawyer is lying?

SAN JOSE, CA – (With apologies to all of my lawyer colleagues, friends and family)…The answer, of course, is “his/her lips are moving.” This is what I thought of when I read Larry Lessig’s piece on net neutrality in the Financial Times today. He’s a smart guy. I’ve seen him speak and he’s got cool glasses, but he’s just off the mark on this one. He argues in favor of net neutrality, which is arguing for more government regulation, of course. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and I’m sure Scalia read Lessig’s piece today arguing for more regulation for the internet and must think that Lessig has lost his way. In Lessig’s Wikipedia entry, it says, “He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.” Yet, when it comes to broadband he wants more regulation and restrictions. I’m no academic or mathemetician, but his math on this one just doesn’t add up.So, why is a non-regulatory guy like Lessig calling for more regulation of the Internet? I honestly don’t know. He has done great things with Creative Commons and perhaps some of his conversations with the pro-net neutrality crowd have influenced him to “the dark side” but I can only conjecture.In the FT piece he writes: “Network owners now want to…charg(e) companies different rates to get access to a “premium” internet. YouTube, or blip.tv, would have to pay a special fee for their content to flow efficiently to customers. If they do not pay this special fee, their content would be relegated to the “public” internet a slower and less reliable network. The network owners would begin to pick which content (and, in principle, applications) would flow quickly and which would not.” This is sheer fiction and he knows it. The truth of the matter is that YouTube and Google, the companies he holds up at stalwarts of fair play, apple pie, motherhood and whiskers on kittens actually charge companies to get premium placement on their websites. What’s this you say? Those who own a website or service are allowed to charge money to allow an advertiser to get top placement on their website? I’m shocked and appalled and will be submitted an op-ed to the FT stating the same. What is the difference of a service provider (in his terminology, a “network owner”) of charging a service to get premium placement on their “owned” network? They are not degrading the services of others, but enhancing the service of those who choose to pay for the premium placement.Here’s another anology: We’re in the throes of campaign season here in the ol’ US of A and television and radio ads play a large role in electing or defeating a candidate. Those candidates who have more money can buy more ads on radio and TV. They can buy them during the most popular shows so that the most amount of voters can see them. If the other candidate has no money and cannot afford to place an ad on television or radio I can only assume that Larry Lessig will offer to pay their way in the name of net neutrality. Why? Because, in his mind, the playing field should be equal for all candidates. Nobody should have an advantage. He is a professor at Stanford, so if you are a D student, but really, really, really want to go to Stanford, give him a call and ask him to lobby for neutral admissions standards. Although it may sound like it, I’m not trying to pick a fight with Lessig…I wouldn’t stand a chance in a debate with him on this or other technology issues (although I think I could take him in arm wrestling), but on this issue he is just plain wrong and he, of all people, should know it.Related non-sequitur (if that is possible): When former Republican Senator from Texas Phil Gramm was retiring he was asked in an interview if the politics of Congress or the politics of academia were thicker (he had been an economics professor at Texas A&M prior to his election to Congress): His answer: (I’m paraphrasing here) “Politics are much tougher in academia. Politics are the worst when the stakes are the lowest.” So, maybe it is politics that got Lessig to pen this op-ed. Maybe it is an affinity for pro-net neutrality companies. Whatever it was, when he was asked to support net neutrality and place more regulations on the internet, he should have said “no.”ADDENDUM: A reader rightly criticized me for conjecturing that Lessig’s position on net neutrality may have been influenced by a relationship with a pro net-neutrality company, so I changed that to “affinity.” UPDATE: Please read Scott Cleland’s response to Lessig’s op-ed in his letter to the editor in the FT.