Moving a National Broadband Plan Forward

Posted by Anoop Gupta
Corporate Vice President — Technology Policy & Strategy

Steve Ballmer joined CEOs John Chambers of Cisco, Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group, and Jeffrey Immelt of GE in a videoconference with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski earlier this week. The topic: how the national broadband plan being developed by the FCC can provide benefits throughout America in all the critical areas of our economy, such as healthcare, energy and education. Broadband is equally vital to most all nations.

Steve emphasized that our economic growth can no longer be fueled by debt and that we must return to the traditional stimuli for economic growth: innovation and productivity. Today, broadband is foundational for driving innovation and productivity across all economic sectors, including energy, education, healthcare, and e-government.

For example, at Microsoft we envision a connected health ecosystem that enables predictive, preventive, and personalized care. Telehealth technologies can be used to remotely monitor patients, facilitate collaboration between medical professionals, exchange medical data and images, and instantaneously provide efficient emergency service to remote areas. We see medical research increasingly benefiting from the HUGE amounts of patient and genomics data for drug discovery and personalized medicine.

With robust, national broadband networks, we see the power of software and information technology as key tools for addressing the world’s daunting energy and climate challenges, because people and organizations will be able to gather actionable information and employ tools to radically increase energy efficiency, accelerate innovation and deploy clean energy sources.

Supply-chain logistics is another example where broadband can help realize productivity gains. With world trade growing rapidly, the power of Moore’s law and the Internet will be harnessed to dynamically connect every object shipped, every vehicle, loader, container, warehouse, etc., to optimize the path of goods through the logistics chain and drive greater efficiencies and productivity. In this world of interconnected devices, achieving “smart logistics” involves a range of software and hardware tools that monitor, optimize and manage operations. This helps reduce the costs of inventory storage and the waste of fuel consumed moving empty or partially loaded shipping containers.

To sustain strong economic growth and jobs creation, the U.S. must have premiere broadband infrastructure—robust, futureproof, both wireline and wireless. If the U.S. falls behind in its broadband infrastructure, innovations in technology applications and business models will happen elsewhere.

Each nation must decide how best to prioritize spending of its fiscal resources. In the United States, the best course is to prioritize deployment of futureproof broadband infrastructure to anchor institutions, such as schools, libraries, and healthcare facilities. This infrastructure can then be leveraged to drive wireline and wireless connectivity more deeply into communities. For people unable to afford broadband at home, anchor institutions will provide not only access but also technical help and a demonstration of the benefits of a high speed connection.

There are other actions that the United States and other nations can take, such as making more licensed and unlicensed wireless spectrum available for broadband. A national broadband plan, such as the FCC is developing for the U.S., would benefit many countries.

Microsoft thanks Chairman Genachowski for holding an important discussion earlier this week, and for the FCC taking on this incredibly important and urgent challenge.

Here’s a link to the recent ex parte filing on Tuesday’s meeting.

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