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July 19, 2010 10:52 AM

The Need For A New Regulatory Paradigm For Broadband

Below is the abstract I submitted to the Open Technology Initiative's call for papers for their Broadband Act of 2011 invitation-only event in late September.

I thought I'd share it with you all as it sums up points I've tried to make over the last and a half related to our country's attempt at crafting a national broadband plan.

I'll continue to expand upon these ideas in the coming weeks, and hope that they're of sufficient merit to warrant an invite to what sounds like will be a tremendous event in September.

"The Need For A New Regulatory Paradigm For Broadband"

The Internet and the broadband ecosystem that supports it are too complex and revolutionary to try and regulate in an incremental fashion. The time has come for a complete re-imagination of how government regulates 21st century communications.

Communications policy has always evolved alongside communications technology. New technology begat new regulations. The problem now is that there are layers upon layers of policy silos that aren't necessarily relevant to the silo-busting nature of the Internet. Government regulates voice differently from video while new technology has destroyed and redefined these distinctions.

To bring communications policy up to speed with communications technology, and especially to have any hope of regulations being able to keep up with and not hinder technological evolution moving forward, America needs to establish a new core to frame what government's role and purpose are in regulating communications in the 21st century.

This new framework must be based on the most fundamental principle of this new communications paradigm. While there are numerous issues related to 21st century communications that are vitally important to America's future, the most fundamental is the universal availability of high capacity, high reliability, low cost bandwidth.

Without access to bandwidth America's citizens, businesses, and institutions won't be able to take full advantage of all that the Internet makes possible. Issues like driving adoption and use and protecting net neutrality are meaningless without the capacity to deliver the applications that makes these issues in the first place.

With the availability of high capacity, high reliability, low cost bandwidth at the core of America's 21st century communications strategy, a focused plan can be developed to specifically address these issues, to identify America's current bandwidth capacity, its future needs, where gaps exist, and what strategies can be pursued to close these gaps.

But to be successful, this plan needs to rid itself of preconceived notions, to kill the sacred cows of broadband policymaking. America can't afford to wait for the private sector to deliver bandwidth only where competition dictates investment. America can't waste resources on protecting the notion of technology neutrality when what's needed is a fully articulated plan that's aware of the strengths and limitations of various broadband technologies.

With a new bandwidth-centric plan in place for connecting all Americans, all of the other existing communications policies and regulations can be revisited within this new unified context. Dealing with issues of voice and video can start by insuring that sufficient bandwidth exists to enable the delivery of these applications, and then rules can be developed around how they can be used and this use can be encouraged.

American can't afford to keep taking baby steps down the wrong path. Instead we need to reset our nation's course to position us to take the bold leaps forwarded that are needed to keep up with the rest of the world.

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