|Broadband: Bringing Home the Bits Committee on Broadband Last Mile Technology|
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Since its inception, the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) has examined how the nation's networked infrastructure has been evolving. At the close of the past decade, the popular appeal of the Internet was evident and growing, and with it the range and richness of the uses to which the Internet might be put. The vision of a popular Internet leads inevitably to thoughts about how people use it in their homes--and then to the arresting observation that most people get the best possible access to the Internet from outside their homes, if they can get it at all. That observation led CSTB to frame an assessment of broadband technologies in what the telecommunications industry has traditionally called the last mile--the link to homes (and small offices). This project complements prior CSTB studies of the core of the network--the backbone, the architecture, broad categories of applications, and specific categories of networking technology--in its concern to (literally) bring networking home.
The key questions about broadband technology in the last mile are deceptively simple. First, what is feasible, technically and economically? But feasibility is a nuanced quality: it is in the eye of the beholder, and beholders differ considerably in terms of their assumptions and preferences. Those same conditions confound answering the second key question: how can public policy foster dissemination of broadband in the last mile? Many industries are involved in supplying broadband technology, and their existence and strategies are already shaped by public policy. And many outside those industries, trying to figure out what is going on, have their own views of what policy is or should be. Moreover, recent industry trends, from mergers to business failures, feed speculation of all kinds--except for an expectation that broadband deployment will accelerate. Thus, to have any claim to completeness, an assessment of broadband in the last mile must combine consideration of technology, economics, and law and policy.
Accordingly, CSTB convened a committee of 14 people with expertise in the following areas: the different kinds of technology that could be used in the last mile; the economics, law, and policy of the telecommunications and networked content industries; and trends in the home and local use of various kinds of networks and their applications.1 The committee combined people with academic, other nonprofit, and commercial experience, and it embraced both supply- and demand-oriented perspectives. The committee met five times in plenary session and received extensive input through briefings, a workshop, and solicited white papers. In addition, it had two plenary conference calls and made extensive use of e-mail and a private Web site for electronic exchange and deliberation.
The committee thanks the many people who helped to make this report possible, although of course the responsibility for the final result is its own.
A number of individuals provided valuable information through briefings to committee meetings. Aubrey Bush and Rodger Ziemer of the National Science Foundation (NSF) presented the charge to the committee. Dale Hatfield, then chief of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Office of Engineering and Technology, and John Berresford, FCC antitrust attorney, presented the range of telecommunications policy concerns from a regulator's perspective. Jeffrey Chester, executive director, Center for Media Education; Eugene Kimmelman, co-director, Consumers Union; and Mark Cooper, director of research, Consumer Federation of America, discussed concerns emerging from consumer advocates. Andrew Sharpless, then senior vice president of interactive media at Discovery Communications, described the perspective of an online content provider; David Kettler, then executive director and vice president of science and technology with Bellsouth, and C. Lincoln ("Link") Hoewing, assistant vice president, Internet and Technology, Verizon, presented incumbent telephone company perspectives; William St. Arnaud, CANARIE, Inc., described the Canadian experience and the larger opportunities in local investment in deploying optical fiber; Milo Medin, chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, Excite@Home Network, discussed the cable industry's approach to Internet service and broadband deployment; Jorge Reina Schement, professor of telecommunications and co-director of the Institute for Information Policy, Pennsylvania State University, provided context for considering universal service issues by describing the big picture of communications and information consumption across different population segments; Ted Darcie, director, AT&T Labs Research, analyzed the merits of different broadband technologies and explained AT&T's thinking about its choices; Douglas Sicker, FCC Office of Engineering and Technology, discussed perspectives on DSL and HFC technologies; James Hannan, vice president of network technology, Sprint Broadband Wireless, discussed wireless broadband; James Stratigos, vice president and general manager of EchoStar Data Networks, discussed satellite broadband; Kevin Lu, executive director of the Integrated Access and Operations Department, Telcordia, discussed fiber in the last mile; George Abe, venture partner, Palomar Ventures, characterized venture capitalists' view of investment opportunities; Thomas G. Krattenmaker, senior counsel at Mintz Levin, outlined challenges in thinking about regulatory options; Glenn Woroch, a University of California at Berkeley economist, presented an economic model of asymmetric regulation of the broadband race; Andrew Cohill, director of the Virginia Tech Communications Network Services and director of the Blacksburg Electronic Village, outlined concepts for a comprehensive municipal fiber plan; Richard Esposto, director of market activation, Western Integrated Networks, discussed conditions and options confronting local government, drawing on his immediately previous work of many years with the Sacramento cable commission; Joseph Van Eaton, principal partner with Miller & Van Eaton, discussed local franchises and licensing; and Richard Civille, Washington director for the Center for Civic Networking, discussed economic development and aggregating demand for rural telecommunications. Some of these individuals and a number of other people provided white papers to the committee and are listed in Appendix C).
This project owes its existence to the support of its sponsors, in this instance an unusually large and diverse group, reflecting combined public and private interest in the topic. The majority of funds came from government or nonprofit sources: the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Special Interest Group on Data Communication of the Association for Computing Machinery. Small contributions--from Hewlett-Packard, Intel Corporation, Interval Research Corporation, WorldCom, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments, and Qwest--were developed by members of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, who recognized that without those resources the project could not be undertaken. In view of the politics of broadband, it is important to note and emphasize that as is typical of CSTB projects, the sponsors enabled but did not influence the outcome of the project. From among these, the consistent encouragement of NSF's Aubrey Bush and members of CSTB are especially noted.
CSTB committees are often assembled with experts from very different backgrounds, and this committee was certainly no exception. It is to the credit of our distinguished members that they constantly derived strength from the diversity in their team and realized an end result characterized by a substantial, and in some ways unexpected, degree of consensus. My thanks to each and every member of the team for their diligence and commitment. On behalf of the team and myself, I extend special thanks to David Clark, who played a major role in launching this study and served as its "virtual co-chair," contributing to and inspiring the work of the committee on many occasions. The CSTB staff, by now well known for its standards of broad excellence, performed once again with supreme distinction. Thanks to D.C. Drake for facilitating our work in every way possible and to Marjory Blumenthal for relentlessly challenging the committee to be comprehensive as well as creative, and finally, many thanks to Jon Eisenberg for his role in anchoring the report of the committee and for representing its work with remarkable timeliness and sophistication.
1 David Butler, who had recently retired from AOL at the time the study started, resigned from the committee for personal reasons in 2000.