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High Tech DTV Coalition: Hard Deadline Key to Free Air Waves for Broadband, Public Safety

Today, at a press conference in DC the High Tech DTV Coalition was announced with the hopes of setting a hard date for the transition to digital television (DTV) so that the extra spectrum broadcasters are now using can be used for public safety and wireless broadband access in rural and underserved areas.

Cisco is a member of the coalition along with Alcatel, Aloha Partners, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, T-Mobile, Information Technology Industry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, Business Software Alliance, the Semiconductor Industry Association, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association and the Rural Telecommunications Group.

You can read the full press release here.

The U.S. is now 16th in Broadband Penetration Worldwide

A year ago today, on April 26, 2004, U.S. President George Bush called for broadband to all Americans by the year 2007 – a noble goal that we are clearly struggling to meet. He said that policies should “bring broadband to every corner of our country by the year 2007 with competition shortly thereafter.” When he gave that speech one year ago today, the US was ranked 13th in the world in broadband per 100 inhabitants. Today, in a report from the ITU (International Telecommunications Union – the new rankings came out. We are now ranked 16th in the world. The ITU website was having problems today, but you should be able to access their report in time here. You can read a brief news summary of the report here.

So, what are we to make of our new ranking? In the days to come, it will be said that we are much more populous and geographically diverse than those countries that are ranked ahead of us. To this, I would say that we were just as populous (nearly so) and geographically diverse five years ago when these rankings started coming out and we were ranked 4th in the world. The fact of the matter is that we STILL don’t have a plan. Competition in many markets is still sparse, so prices for broadband are high. Cable and telephone companies are investing in infrastructure (generally) where they can make money, but because there is no incentive for them to buildout (i.e. somethat that a national broadband plan might provide) they make do with what they have.

One way to help us not fall further in the rankings in 2007 (the so-stated goal for broadband to EVERYONE!! in the US) is to get some of that yummy broadcaster spectrum back…at some point…soon. The transition to digital television (DTV) started nearly a decade ago and during that time broadcasters were given an additional channel of spectrum to broadcast a digital channel – no small feat in terms of investment as well as technology. The idea was for them to simulcast an analog AND digital channel during the transition period and then give back the analog channel after the transition reached a date certain or a certain digital penetration rate was reached (let's not discuss the fact that the majority of people get their television via cable and satellite – there are still a great deal of people who rely on free, over-the-air television).

So, as that date certain approaches, broadcasters say that the DTV penetration rate is not where it should be and that consumers should be given more time to transition to DTV so that they won't lose their analog television signals. They have a good argument, but in order for the U.S. to be globally competitive and for citizens, all citizens, to have access to a robust choice of broadband, we need to get that analog spectrum back from the broadcasters in a timely manner. There is growing support for this approach in the halls of the U.S. Congress and an announcement will be made tomorrow by a number of companies and associations along the lines of getting a date certain for the analog give-back. (NOTE TO READERS: I used to work for the National Association of Broadcasters so I have been on both sides of this current discussion.)

So, in sum, we’re #16 in the world in broadband penetration. We still don’t have a national broadband plan to address our continual fall in the rankings. Broadcasters have spectrum that will help us raise our rankings. We need a date certain for that spectrum to be given back to the American people, so we can get back on the world broadband wagon.

CNET Interview with Cisco CEO John Chambers

Interesting interview with our CEO on growth, on his tenure, on transition plans, on acquistions, on stock options and more. I encourage you to check it out…candid interview. Read it here or by copying and pasting this URL:

Foreign Affairs Magazine on Broadband: “Down to the Wire” by Thomas Bleha

I thought those of you interested in broadband deployment worldwide would be interested in this article that appears in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

The summary of the article states: “Once a leader in Internet innovation, the United States has fallen far behind Japan and other Asian states in deploying broadband and the latest mobile-phone technology. This lag will cost it dearly. By outdoing the United States, Japan and its neighbors are positioning themselves to be the first states to reap the benefits of the broadband era: economic growth, increased productivity, and a better quality of life.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. : )

You can read the full article by clicking here or cutting and pasting this URL:

Chinese Premier in India: Asian Century for IT

It what could prove to be the biggest IT news of this early century, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was in Bangalore, India today and stated that he would like the two countries to make use of their complementary IT skills — China for their hardware expertise and India for their software expertise. He stated that together the two countries could make the 21st century the “Asian century of the IT industry.”

There was a lot of coverage of this story all over the wires and I expect that there will be much more coverage on this to come. You can view the Reuters story here.

Premier Jiabao said this today and not another President, Premier or Prime Minister because China and India are pumping engineers out of their education system at a record clip. When you have those numbers, it is tough not to combine and be a formidible world force. This news should be sobering for the U.S. and for technology centers around the country. Lawmakers, educators and industry should get together and determine what they can all do collectively to help stave off this new competition or at the least have parity with this new powerful combo.

The American technology industry is the envy of the world and it makes perfect sense for China and India to come after that leadership. The real question remains: how will the U.S. respond?