Since Thanksgiving is here I made my list of the telecom things I am thankful for this year. Here are my good thoughts for this season:
An FCC Chairman that Talks the Talk. We have a new FCC Chairman in Tom Wheeler who seems to talk the talk. He has said the right things about a whole range of topics. He wants to increase the definition of broadband to 10 Mbps. He wants to allow municipalities and anybody else to build fiber networks. He wants to make net neutrality apply to wireless as well as landline data connections. He has speculated that Comcast and Time Warner are too large to merge. He has even talked about allowing competitors to use unbundled fiber networks.
There was a big worry when he took office that he would support large cable and wireless companies due to his history as the head of those industry groups. And he still might. While he has talked the talk, nothing he has talked about has yet come to pass. All that will matter in the end is what he does, not what he says. But for now I am at least thankful that he is talking the right talk.
Moore’s Law Has Not Yet Broken. It seems like for the last fifteen years that some expert always predicts the end of Moore’s Law – the one that predicts that computer processing power will double every 18 months. But this year alone I’ve seen dozens of incremental improvements in computer power and it doesn’t look like we are anywhere near to the end of technology history as the pessimists have often predicted.
Data Speeds are Getting Faster. Network technology is improving so quickly that the incumbent providers find themselves increasing data speeds almost in spite of themselves. Of course, some of the data speed increases we have seen are the result of competition. But we are seeing gradually faster speeds in many other places as Verizon FiOS, Comcast and Time Warner have all unilaterally increased speeds.
We have a long way to go with data speeds, but as we can see In Austin, TX, the cable companies are capable of delivering 300 Mbps, but they only do so under stiff competition. Even AT&T can be prompted to build fiber when faced with losing a major market
The Country Is Waking Up to the Digital Divide. The digital divide is no long just between those who have computers and broadband and those who do not. The wider digital divide is now between communities stuck with relatively slow broadband and those with fast broadband. More and more communities who are on the wrong side of this divide are starting to demand faster broadband. Many of these communities thought they had solved the broadband issue a decade ago when they got 3 Mbps DSL or cable modems. But a decade later they find themselves with that same technology and speeds, which are no longer acceptable (and which soon may not even qualify as broadband per the FCC).
The Brains of the Network Are Moving to the Cloud. We now have the ability with software defined networking for the more expensive functions of the network to move to the cloud. One of the hardest things about bringing broadband to a rural area is that it’s not cost effective to also bring voice and cable TV. But we are seeing the beginnings of having voice switching, cable TV headends and even cellular headends moving to a cloud. This is going to turn these functions into services rather than capital requirements.
Technology is Making Everything Better. You can barely read the trade press without seeing some new technology breakthrough that will improve telecom. This year alone I have seen a dozen announcements about ways to increase the speed and efficiency of fiber. There are constant improvements in chips sets, batteries, use of spectrum, materials and processes that make it easier to deliver telecom products.
My Cellphone. I am not a sophisticated cellphone user. I don’t run dozens of apps and my main computing tools are still my desktop or my laptop. I don’t play games on the cellphone or watch videos on it. But I use my cellphone in the typical ways of keeping connected when I am away from the office. It is so convenient to be able to answer an email or look something up on the web from anywhere. But I am also thankful that I am not one of those people who sit at a restaurant with my head on my cellphone.
This Blog. I am first thankful that there are people who find this interesting enough to read. Thank you all! I I am mostly thankful for the discipline that this blog has given me and the act of writing daily has reinvigorated my creative drive.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. May you also be thankful for many things!