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08.26.2005
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Experts criticize America’s lack of vision on broadband

America lacks a profound vision for deploying high-speed Internet services, Nortel Networks CEO William Owens said last week. Citing the increasing advances in wireless broadband networks in China, India, Pakistan and South Korea, Owens expressed concern that there is not enough high-level leadership to drive robust broadband deployments in the rural United States.

Owens made his remarks at the Progress and Freedom Foundation annual conference in Aspen, CO. Coverage of the conference was originally published in the National Journal’s Technology Daily.

The former admiral spoke extensively of his business travels in Asia and said the regulatory structures there are far more helpful to telecommunications build-outs than those in the United States. Owens said states fragment the country so much that U.S. companies have trouble getting through the regulatory hurdles.

In a panel following Owens’ remarks, several academic spectrum experts also criticized the Bush administration on its policies. Lawrence White, a professor at New York University, gave the government a C-minus and said the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) should be more proactive in obtaining new spectrum.

But NTIA Director Michael Gallagher defended the administration’s efforts. He said that the president wants to achieve a goal of affordable broadband to all Americans by 2007. Gallagher also reminded the group that 90MHz of spectrum will become available for auction in June 2006 and that it will drive more broadband services and deployment. That’s a 45 percent increase in spectrum, he said.

Even more spectrum, he noted, will come online in the next several years as broadcasters migrate to digital transmission, making available at auction about 60MHz for other commercial uses and allowing wireless companies to use other spectrum already purchased.

The panel also debated how the new spectrum should be treated: should swaths be kept open and free of licenses or should chunks be reserved for ownership by specific carriers. There was general agreement that both approaches can work, depending on the application.

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