Cisco Blogs

Cisco Blog > High Tech Policy

WHAT is Broadband in the U.S.?

In a previous blog entry on the state of broadband penetration in the US I lamented the fact that according to the ITU we have fallen in broadband penetration in the past year as measured by broadband per 100 inhabitants. We are, in fact, the largest broadband nation in the world by number of subscribers NTIA chief Michael Gallagher reminded us at a Cisco conference yesterday. He also said that broadband is the second fastest adopted technology in the US other than color television. I didn’t have a chance to speak with him after his talk, but the question I have is: are we still measuring broadband at 200kbps? That was the latest FCC definition of broadband. In my humble opinion (I am not a technologist, but an avid user of all things broadband), 200K and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee. 200K definition comes from FCC’s 4th report “Availability of Advanced Telecommunications Capability in the United States” to Congress (issued September 2004), which you can read here…or here: (Page 12)

LET’S RAISE THE BAR!! I understand that to those without connectivity 200Kpbs would seem acceptable, but to those of us who generally live in the “truer” broadband world 200K is embarassing to measure as broadband. Sure, we have to keep up with the Jones’ (or Swedes or Koreans or Japanese, etc.) in terms of measurement with broadband…we’re #1 or we’re #16 and falling or whatever, but let’s measure true broadband or “next generation” broadband or whatever you want to call it as well. Let’s measure 10Mbps or 100Mbps or both! Let’s see where we really are in terms of getting broadband access out there at speeds that are meaningful. Internet access is a step, so too is 200Kpbs, but the real step is when you are talking multiple megabits. Let’s redefine broadand and see where we really are in true broadband penetration…IMHO…I vote for “next generation” broadband being defined at 10Mbps (which, truth be told, would be standard in some of our “competitor” nations). I’ll even throw out a “fast” broadband measurement of 100Mbps. Where are we on these speeds that truly matter?

Cisco/China “Ruckus”

A comment on a previous blog entry asked for a comment on the “Cisco/China Ruckus.” What that “ruckus” is: several bloggers and columnists have accused Cisco of selling equipment to the Chinese specifically designed to build their Internet censoring capability, their so-called “Golden Shield” project. I will copy directly from my learned and esteemed colleage, Terry Alberstein, head of PR for Cisco’s Asia/Pacific region, who sent the following to one of the bloggers:

“As one of the worlds leaders in Internet networking technology, Cisco Systems has played an important role in the growth of the Internet globally. Cisco has also played an important role in the development of the Internet in China. Today the Internet in China has over 100 million users, one of the largest Internet populations in the world, and continues to grow rapidly.

The networking hardware and software products that Cisco sells in China are exactly the same as we sell in every market in the world. And it is our users, not Cisco, that determine the applications that they deploy.

Beyond basic Internet protocol (IP)-based data, voice and video connectivity, Cisco’s products provide important network management functions, such as preventing unauthorized access to networks, helping to prevent and mitigate denial of service attacks, and protecting intellectual property. Cisco technologies also address important security functions such as blocking viruses from infecting a network, preventing hackers from stealing credit card numbers, protecting access to confidential medical information, helping Internet service providers administer billing, and allowing public libraries and parents to block young childrens access to particular websites.

Cisco is not in violation of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. The act in question requires export licensing from the U.S. Department of Commerce for specifically designed policing equipment like shotguns, police helmets and handcuffs. Networking products from Cisco and our competitors are not covered by this legislation. A full list of these items can be found at the Department of Commerce link below:

Cisco Systems does not participate in the censorship of information by governments. Moreover, Cisco complies with U.S. Government regulations, which prohibit sale of our products to certain destinations; or to users who misuse our products or resell them to prohibited users.

Cisco does sell networking equipment to law enforcement agencies around the world, including in China, in compliance with U.S. Department of Commerce regulations. Our products offer benefits through the networking of computing devices that aid in the effectiveness and timeliness of law enforcement. We also sell our products to many public sector organizations like universities, municipal governments, utilities, etc. Additionally, the market for networking products in China is highly competitive – we have strong competition in that market from French, Japanese, Canadian, Korean and Chinese competitors.

With respect to service and training of our products, all Cisco customers globally have access to Cisco training and support. We provide service and support, either directly by Cisco or, in many cases, through systems integration partners for our equipment. However, these services do not entail the day to day management of networks. Our service and post-sales support is designed to replace faulty or defective products, and to provide training for the proper operation and configuration of network hardware.”

Hope that helps clarify the official Cisco position.

Aspen Summit: Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF)

I just returned from several days in Aspen from PFF’s 10th annual Aspen Summit…PFF is a think tank that advocates free-market approaches over government regulations. The theme of this year’s conference was “Building a Digital Ownership Society – The Place for Property and Commons.” My overall thoughts on the conference were that the keynotes were particularly interesting and semi-provocative while the panels were generally love fests with some disagreement on the issues around the edges.

“Aspen, what a boondoggle,” everybody said to me upon my return. Wish that it were true. Aspen IS beautiful, but the interior of a hotel in Aspen is very similar to the interior of a hotel anywhere. Although the hotdog cart in “downtown” Aspen stays open 24 hours which can come in handy.

Webcasts of the keynotes and panels will be available in full…some are posted already… Here are some of my personal thoughts on the keynotes:Keynotes posted: – SUN President Jonathan Schwartz’ announced a new, free DRM solution (which sounded eerily similar to one that former Cisco-ite and former/current SUN-er Andy Bechtolsheim pitched while at Cisco.) I’m still pulling for this type of solution and Bechtolsheim is one of the smartest individuals I have ever met, so I’m sure this solution would work if implemented.- Edgar Bronfman, Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, gave a compelling address about technology and content industries working together…notable, because he sounded sincere. He also said that the battle between consumers and the music industry has already been waged. “We lost,” he said.- My mom taught me that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, so I will let you view Intuit CEO’s Steve Bennett address for yourself.- Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s address delivered the oft-heard message to technology companies in the room: “government doesn’t know what you do.” He did say that technology companies should reach out to governors on both side of the aisle as they were more likely to be quicker in working with technology companies on the policy issues that matter to them. You can view the aforementioned addresses here.

Those keynotes that aren’t yet posted, but worthwhile to view when posted are: – William Owens – CEO, Nortel – Called on U.S. policymakers to develop a better vision for broadband deployment. News Story.– Tom Perkins, Founder, Kleiner Perkins – Gave a bit of a history of venture capital as well as railed against SOX and stock option expensing. Tidbit that I did not know about him: he used to be married to Danielle Steele. Proudest company he helped fund: Genentech (KPCB funded them 100K and got a 33.3% stake – for those of you keeping score at home, that 100K investment would be worth $30B+ today).

For you fact hounds, also published and now available is PFF’s treasure trove of data, Digital Economy Fact Book (7th edition). FULL of great information and stats.

Trade Test Teaches Important Lesson

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed, 217-215, the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (so-called CAFTA-DR), H.R. 3045. Cisco and the U.S. tech industry supported passage of this bill, which the Senate also passed on June 30, 54-45. Now clear for signature into law by President Bush, implementation of this agreement will result in lowered tariffs on U.S. exports of tech products to CAFTA-DR countries, as well as liberalization of these countries’ telecommunications markets.

The politics of trade legislation have become increasingly complicated since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the early 1990s. Ever-increasing global competition and recent fears of offshore outsourcing have heightened political pressures. These politics were evident in last night’s vote: 15 Democrats joined 202 Republicans to pass the legislation. Disappointingly, none of the Silicon Valley members, except Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA-11), voted in support of the bill.

While speaking with the press about this vote, Ralph Hellman, VP at the Information Technology Industry Council, emphasized that the tech industry needs to do a better job of educating the Congress about the benefits of trade, “It’s incumbent upon the tech community to register our disappointment with those [no-vote] members in a variety of ways but continue the education process about why trade is important so we can have their support on bigger deals down the road.” The U.S. Government is negotiating a number of bilateral, regional and multilateral trade deals, which will eventually come before the Congress for approval.

Looking forward, while congressional passage of CAFTA-DR was ultimately successful, it sends an important message to free trade supporters, like me, that more education and engagement must be done to increase bipartisan support for trade. We’ve got our work cut out for us…

Vlogging: the next big thing?

Read today’s New York Times story on video logging or “vlogging.” (Free registration required to access this site.)

I, of course, encourage adding all types of bits and bytes to the world wide web. It just so happens that much of that information flows over Cisco’s equipment, so it is ultimately good for our business, but I also think that more information is better than less information. Do I necessarily need to see a video post every day from a young man in England (see NYTimes story)? No, but I love creativity and I think this is a new canvas and a new medium and it takes all types of blogs and vlogs to build an audience.

Dial-up is good for e-mail, but not for streaming video, so vlogging is ultimately dependent on broadband – which will bring added benefits to education, healthcare and telecommuting. If vlogging can bring more people to the broadband world, then more power to it. Vlogging could very well be the new postcard, the new way for an elected representative to communicate with constituents, the new way for an executive to communicate with employees, or it could simply be the way for Ian Mills of Keynes, England to show his vlog of him drinking raw eggs or spinning around until he is dizzy. Regardless, it puts us in touch with our fellow human beings in a real and tangible way, which I think is a good thing.