Federal Communications Commission

Reflections on Being Part of the National Broadband Plan Team – and a Look Ahead

August 24th, 2009 by Carlos Kirjner - Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband

Carlos KrjinerIt is great fun to be part of the team developing the National Broadband Plan, notwithstanding the fact that I'm writing this at 10:45 pm at the FCC, waiting for a colleague to get ready so we can walk together to the Metro after a long day.  But there are several reasons why this is a fun project:

First, we all realize the importance of what we are doing. Yes, it is important for people in corporations, for politicians, and for policy makers. But it is also important for our friends, neighbors, and families. We want them to be proud of what we do and its impact on the country and the people of the United States. And it is fun to work on something truly important.

Second, there is a healthy mix of analysis and vision across a broad variety of very important topics. And variety is the spice of life!

For example, about a week ago, I had a discussion about several econometric studies on the relationship between broadband adoption and economic growth, and how much of what is written on the topic is depressingly bad: my 11 year old knows that correlation is not causation, but some economists clearly don't!  I'm looking forward to getting better information about the subject from our workshop on Wednesday of this week, entitled "Economic Growth, Job Creating, and Private Investment ."

Shortly after that discussion, I worked for a few hours on understanding the technological, regulatory, economic, and operational issues associated with ensuring that our first-responders have their communications needs met. I remembered the many hours I spent with Chiefs Hayden and Pfeiffer at the FDNY when we were working together to understand what happened on 9/11, and how they taught me to respect and value our firefighters and police officers (I am sure NYPD guys wont believe this, but it is true!).  We'll be hearing more about the topic Tuesday morning at our workshop on Public Safety and Homeland Security, followed by an afternoon session on Energy, Environment and Transportation; a session on Thursday afternoon after the Commission meeting will devote more time to technology, applications and devices.

Later that afternoon, I participated in a panel about education and broadband.  I could not stop thinking that every high school student in the U.S. should be able to watch the Feynman lectures on physics online (requires Silverlight 3.0) from their home as many times as needed until they truly understand why physics and math are both important and cool.  Every parent should be able to look up their child's homework assignments for next week on the web.  Every teacher should be able to access the best pedagogic content in the world to meet their student's needs.  And ours kids must be able to go to school without carrying bags weighing 20lbs. How to get there is a great challenge, as broadband is actually just a small piece of this puzzle.  We will be looking at a different facet of broadband and education Wednesday afternoon in a workshop on broadband's impact on job training programs

Finally, I had a two-hour meeting with Chairman Genachowski talking about the main policy issues we have identified so far in our work.  He was deeply engaged and helped us frame and advance our thinking on many important questions.

The third reason why it is fun to work here is the quality of the people. There are really smart and dedicated folks in the FCC, with tremendous expertise in important policy issues, like Universal Service and the FCC's authority to remove or impose obligations like build-out requirements or incentives to drive efficient use of spectrum. And most have a great sense of humor, which one needs to be able to keep up the pace.

Well, time to go. Enjoy the workshops this week.

One Response to “Reflections on Being Part of the National Broadband Plan Team – and a Look Ahead”

  1. Mike Kiely says:

    Your embarking on a great project. I have submitted on the BRoadband defintion question a comment to the effect that Broadband could be defined or labelled in terms of the outcomes supported. The link below provides an illustration of how this could be done.

    Access to Feynman is a moving and a great example. That application needs low delay/latecy characteristics, something say 6Mb Mobile Broadband service will fail to support because of the delay characteristics.

    Here I listed a set of applications to be support a minimum service.

    I hope it is of use.

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