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Trade, or Something Like It

Cisco announced our quarterly earnings this week, and what I was drawn to is the fact that sales outside of the U.S. now account for 54% of all our company’s sales (that’s up from 52% a short time ago). What’s the Big Deal, you ask? Well, despite stiff competition from Asia, Europe and elsewhere, as well as ambivalence among some U.S. policymakers about how to help make U.S.-based companies more competitive, Cisco is selling to more customers outside the world’s largest economy than inside of it.

Selling abroad is a pretty tough endeavor, as there are so many ways that local firms have a leg-up. But, there are rules-of-the-road, which most governments agree to, that allow U.S. products and services to be treated fairly in foreign markets. These rules are enshrined in the World Trade Organization, and in a number of free trade agreements that the U.S. Government has negotiated with other countries over the years.

There’s a new free trade agreement that the U.S. Government negotiated recently with six countries in Central America (Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), and it’s running into opposition in Capitol Hill, where its implementing legislation needs to be passed before the agreement can take effect. Among other things, the agreement (CAFTA) would lower a number of tariff and non-tariff barriers in these countries, so U.S. companies could sell more products and provide more services to these markets.

The thing is, U.S. barriers to products and services coming in from these six countries are already extremely low, so the agreement would benefit both sides – in fact, I had the pleasure of hearing the Guatemalan Ambassador to the U.S. explain how he’d heard this story of a farmer in Costa Rica who learns the world market price of coffee beans from a mobile Internet kiosk that comes through his village every week. The farmer can log-on and know what the going-rate is for his coffee and not get taken advantage of in the local market. Pretty cool. So, making this stuff more accessible and affordable I think is a good thing – keeps us all connected (and honest).

I know, there are a lot of politics swirling about over this agreement, but I think this vote comes down to a fundamental decision: are we in or are we out?

Wireless Broadband in North Carolina – Catch It!!

Generally known for NASCAR, ACC basketball, banking, BBQ and tobacco, North Carolina can NOW be known for wireless broadband. At least Greene County, North Carolina can. Leave it to my home state to be cutting edge. : )

Greene County is in the eastern part of the state, about an hour east of Raleigh. Now, through a partnership with a technology company nearly all of the residents in the county can get wireless broadband for a relatively attractive price – $34.95. According to an article in the The Free Press of Kinston, North Carolina, the company involved in deploying the technology, Wavelength, “recently signed an exclusive two-year contract with Greene County to provide service. Investments made by the county are expected to be recouped in a few years thanks to a profit-sharing plan worked out between Wavelength and the County Board of Commissioners.”

Let’s see how this one plays out, but in rural and undersevered areas (parts of Greene county qualify as both) this method of deploying broadband could fill in some of the holes in the U.S. Good luck, Greene County!!

The full article can be viewed here.

National Broadband Plan for the Enterprise

So, my cable bill (Comcast) came the other day. I get basic cable service as well as broadband service. Cisco allows me to expense the cost of my cable broadband service. Pretty much all Cisco employees are allowed to expense their broadband at home. They understand (correctly) that if an employee works one hour a month at home, then the broadband pays for itself. I worked three hours at home just last night, so I think they’re getting a bargain.

Why doens’t the government pay for its workers’ broadband to extend the workday and make telecommuting a reality? Why don’t all Fortune 1000 companies pay for their workers’ broadband for the same reasons. If you want to talk about productivity increases, please talk to me or any of my colleagues…I actually find it EASIER to be able to access the network from home – clear the e-mail out in the evening, in the morning before driving to work, etc.

Anyway, any other companies or entities following the Cisco home broadband subsidy model? If not, why not?

China to Surpass US in Broadband Subscribers…and the PhD Deficit in the US…

Check out this interesting lead from an article today, “If the competitiveness of nations can be measured by their broadband subscriber rolls, then the United States is on the verge of losing its leadership to China.”

The article continues, “China already is rapidly approaching the United States as the country with the largest number of broadband subscribers, according to data from iSuppli Corp.'s newly-launched Broadband and Digital Home service. At the end of 2005, China is expected to have 34 million subscribers, compared to 39 million in the United States.”

Read the full article here : or by copying this URL:

Again, why do we need a national broadband plan? You may have seen the news and previous blog on China and India partnering to compete directly for world leadership in IT…you may have seen a recent article in the Wall Street Journal on the “PhD” deficit in the US… the answers ARE out there, it's just a matter of execution and funding…and FOCUS!!

A couple of stats from the WSJ article to help us all on some of those who have found focus: “In China, R&D expenditures rose 350% between 1991 and 2001, and the number of science and engineering Ph.D.s soared 535%. In South Korea, R&D expenditures increased more modestly — by 220% — and Ph.D.s by 150%. In that same period, the number of applications for U.S. patents from each country grew by 400%. Publications in scientific journals provide another indicator of the global challenge to our scientific primacy. In 1986, the U.S. share of articles in such journals world-wide was 39%. By 2001 it had slipped to 31%, and it is still declining.”

I got my marriage license today!!!

So, what does this have to do with technology policy, you might ask. Not a lot other than government is definitely old school in a lot of their processes. We had to hand write the application and then the very helpful clerk took our application and then typed it into her computer (she only misspelled my dad’s name – which was then corrected on review before final processing). Why couldn’t we have typed in the information from our computer into the same form and then given her our ID’s when we arrived to process the license? Or paid online so they don’t have to process my check? Maybe marriage licenses and passports and other important documents should have to be applied for in person, but it seems that with the technology we currently have available that there could be some sort of personal electronic identifier that would allow the government to verify identity and issue these types of documents. Certainly with the advances that have been made in biometrics a system of identification could be developed.

I know there has been talk of a “frequent traveller” card of some sort for those travellers who frequent airports more than the average, so that is certainly one way that the government is trying to streamline lines and processes. Perhaps the answer is biometrics…perhaps a national ID card is part of the solution…I know that privacy is very important and I don’t want to suggest that technology is the answer to everything, but (to make a leap here – stay with me) all of the “misplacements” of personal data (BofA, TimeWarner, etc.) have been made by lost files or boxes or stolen files (the hard, physical kind), not by someone hacking into a system and stealing the data (and, no, phishing will not be discussed in this blog)…

Yes, this is a meandering, stream-of-consciousness blog that I thought might somehow get to how government can better serve citizens by having citizens serve themselves through electronic government systems and processes, however, as I proofread this I realize that it is a meandering, stream-of-consciousness entry, so I will conclude with: I’M GETTING MARRIED! My fiancee is the most beautiful, smartest, funniest, fun woman in the world. We got our marriage license today.