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TechNet CEOs: national broadband critical

Tue, 01/15/2002 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

Some of the industry's biggest names pulled out the stops and statistics, hoping to prompt government action in getting the sluggish broadband sector moving.

The Technology Network, or TechNet, proposed a goal of 100 Mbps to 100 million homes and small businesses by 2010, it says. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based lobbying organization, comprised of CEOs from broadband's top companies, outlined in A National Imperative: Universal Availability of Broadband by 2010. In a conference call, they noted six points to speed consumer adoption and industry deployment.

"The United States led the world in developing the information economy," says TechNet CEO Rich White. To hold that edge, "We need a high bandwidth network that will give U.S. citizens access to the enormous promise of 21st Century technology. The report we are releasing today outlines how we can get there."

TechNet says the majority of broadband connections fall below 2 Mbps, and even those reach only 8 percent to 10 percent of U.S. homes. Likewise, only 6 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses have broadband access, it says.

The six suggested "shoulds" include regulatory restraint in broadband applications and services, specifically that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission ensure minimal regulations on advanced services, TechNet says in its executive summary. Policy should encourage new network investments, partly through state and local governments streamlining laws and regulations. Spectrum policy should use market-based approaches, reducing "artificial scarcity of spectrum," and policy should encourage tax and other incentives to take broadband to underserved areas. Finally, "Broadband policy should encourage innovation and government shouldn't pick technology winners and losers," TechNet says. The organization will not take a position on the controversial Tauzin-Dingell bill, slated for U.S. House of Representative scrutiny in March.

The report received cautious approval from the industry.

"The tone of the TechNet white paper, with its emphasis on marketplace rather than regulatory solutions for managing growth, is particularly welcome," says a statement from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. "However, we have some serious concerns about the paper's call for 100 megabit broadband transmission speeds and 'last-mile' infrastructure development, which we believe misread current and future market conditions. We'd urge policymakers to carefully scrutinize these points."

TechNet says adoption of the 100 Mbps would be incremental, and proposed a short-term goal of at least 6 Mbps from two or more providers to at least half of the country's residences and small businesses by 2004.

TechNet's CEO task force, set up last spring, includes Cisco Systems' John Chambers; John Doerr, partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; 3Com Corp. and Palm Inc. Chair Eric Benhamou, Tony Ley, Harmonic Inc. Chair and CEO; Executive VP and COO of Microsoft, Bob Herbold; and ExciteAtHome CTO Milo Medin.

TechNet spokeswoman Connie Correll says the organization has sent a copy of the report to the White House, as well as Congress. She would not speculate on what the response would be. "Obviously we hope they will be supportive of adopting an ambitious national goal," she says.

"What's next is we need to communicate to policy makers our position," she says. Correll and White will go to Washington next week to talk about the proposals and will take a group of CEOs to the city in early March.

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