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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.

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