Monday, April 10, 2017

U.S. at crossroads on telecom infrastructure modernization. The choice is to look to the past -- or to the future.

The United States stands at a crossroads when it comes to modernizing its telecommunications infrastructure. Many observers including Susan Crawford and this writer believe that modernization must be future-focused, providing an infrastructure that’s sufficiently robust and able to accommodate the rapidly growing demand for bandwidth that comes with the transition to digital, Internet-protocol based telecommunications. That means replacing the legacy metallic infrastructure that worked well for telephone and cable TV service in the 20th century with the infrastructure of the 21st: fiber optic connections serving every American doorstep. The future is big and it demands big thinking.

Others such as Doug Brake of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation argue for a retrogressive approach that encourages us to think small. It proposes incremental fixes, prioritizing those areas worst impacted by market failure borne out of the misguided heavy reliance on investor-owned infrastructure. Instead of producing a future of bandwidth abundance where the term “broadband speed” is obsoleted, Brake’s incremental outlook would condemn Americans to a future of ongoing bandwidth poverty and its adverse effects for the larger socio-economy.

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