Open Mic: Technology and public policy: An unlikely connection

Tue, 03/31/2009 - 8:20pm
Bill Check, Senior vice president of science and technology for the NCTA

Public policy should be taken into account, and respected.

As we are so keenly aware, technology is at the core of the cable business. Without it, a Web site couldn’t load the latest stock prices when we need to make a trade, we’d miss the winning shot in the basketball game on our HDTV, and Bill Checkwe’d barely be able to hear that child or loved one on the other end of the phone.

This solid technology enables the cable industry to thrive and accomplish its business objectives. Without a firm technology base, cable would never have rolled out telephone service or begun deploying DOCSIS 3.0. For tens of millions of Americans, it is cable’s robust broadband pipeline and associated services that provide essential connectivity to communicate, learn and operate businesses. And for cable operators, it is loyal customers that help achieve business goals.

Yet, too often we forget that we don’t develop the latest software application or gadget in a bubble. Sure, consumers are often the end-user on their sofas at home, but there can be other considerations.

The development of new technologies should be driven from a business perspective, rather than based on regulations. But, as new applications and hardware move into the marketplace, there may be an impact from a regulatory or legislative perspective. The technologies that are developed in the lab or on a computer screen can be touched in the halls of Congress or the corridors of regulatory agencies. As a result, while public policy shouldn’t drive development or business decisions, it should be taken into account, and respected.

This is especially significant as the cable industry descends on Washington, D.C., this month for The Cable Show. As show attendees look one way down Pennsylvania Avenue and see the Capitol standing tall and look the other way to view the White House, these buildings should serve as symbolic reminders of the potential connection between technology and public policy.

The Cable Show comes to Washington this year to showcase our industry before our country’s government, and to help policymakers better see and understand all of the exciting technologies that make our industry tick. As technology rapidly evolves, we have an important responsibility to help members of Congress, regulators and other policymakers understand how things work, and what changes mean.

To demonstrate cable’s services and innovations, the NCTA is putting “Broadband Nation,” a 20,000-square-foot technology showcase, at the center of the show floor. This large-scale exhibit highlights the advanced services and consumer benefits associated with cable’s broadband telecommunications platform. This is a great opportunity for the cable industry – and the specific technologies that make it spin – to highlight cable in the backyard of lawmakers, regulators and the new administration and, most importantly, demonstrate how technology and public policy intersect. Broadband Nation captures in visible ways how broadband works to enhance the everyday life of Americans, how it can help improve healthcare and education, and how it speaks to other important social goals.

As the centerpiece of The Cable Show, Broadband Nation is a one-stop for everything broadband, showing how the latest – and future – broadband technology can be integrated into a suburban home or an urban loft, a school, a small business and a health clinic. Just a few of the technologies on display include: WiMAX, tru2way applications, DOCSIS 3.0, RF over Glass (RFoG), fiber-to-the-home and much more.

Since broadband is a hot topic in Washington this spring, Broadband Nation is key in showing how broadband’s impact – and how we can increase its adoption – are dominating telecommunications and technology this year. Funding for broadband deployment and adoption received a massive boost of $7.2 billion with the recently enacted economic stimulus package. As the nation’s foremost broadband provider, the cable industry continues to lead the charge for broadband deployment.

While business decisions need to propel technology, we must be aware that there might be an impact from regulatory and legislative processes. So, as spring blooms in Washington, The Cable Show is our chance to put cable front and center and tout the innovation that we – engineers, developers, technologists and others – have spent our careers perfecting. We think our regulators and policymakers will really benefit from their up-close opportunity to see our industry at work.


Next month, CTAM’s Char Beales will tackle the topic
“Business services: Cable’s economic elixir.”

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