FCC Chairman Interview

Gartner features an interview with US Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell. Excerpts:

As I look at transitioning to the communication platforms of the future, I see that the beauty of Internet protocols is you get the separation of the layers between service and technology. Unlike the phone system, which is engineered around an application, the Internet layered model allows you to, in essence, separate applications from infrastructure. What’s exciting about that is almost any platform can be a broadband bit-carrying platform.

The first thing I feel like we have the potential to do is to deliver to consumers more roots to their home. Already we have doubled our utility, with digital subscriber line (DSL) and cable modem technologies, which is better than the one-technology approach of twisted copper wire deployed by telephone companies a century ago. And there’s unquestionably going to be a third technology in some places fixed wireless, satellite or something else, such as broadband over the power line.

[In the future] in simple terms, I think you’re going to have lower prices, lower cost networks and 50 times the innovations. Look at Vonage’s VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service. Jeff Citron (Vonage co-founder, CEO and chairman) comes along (in 1999) and says, “I’m going to create a system that treats voice like data,” which means it speaks the language of a computer, and “I’m going to use the Internet to be a transport vehicle.” Look at what his consumer product will do. The programmability of the communication service is 50 times the traditional spoke-and-hubs central-office model of the phone system. So I can go to Germany and log in with my telephone number, and have it ring there. I can tell it not to ring at dinner and ring different ways for my wife and kids. Or I can tell it to convert the voice message into text and send it as a short message to my wireless phone. There are enormous innovations to come that are just not at all possible on the current fading infrastructure.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.