January 21, 2009
Broadband Deployment Advocate to Address Crowds at ITEXPO
By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief
Here at TMC and among our Web site’s frequent readers, we’ve been arguing for days on my blog about President Barack Obama’s broadband stimulus plan.
Tom Keating (News - Alert), a vice president and chief technical officer here who has his own popular VoIP news and gadget review blog, says Obama’s stimulus plan represents another way that the government gets in people’s ways.
In principle, I agree with Tom. But for me, broadband is like air, water, highways, bridges and other core infrastructure and the government should aid in ensuring the United States is a leader in Internet access.
I take it my point of view would be backed up by Charles “Chip” Spann, a wireless business analyst with Connected Nation, a Washington, D.C.-based group that seeks to bridge the digital divide, bringing equal broadband access to all regions of the nation, rural and inner-city alike.
On Monday, Feb. 2, during the three-day Internet Telephony (News - Alert) Conference & Expo in Miami, Chip will sit on a panel that examines WiMAX solutions as an alternative service strategy for rural and remote access areas.
WiMAX, along with long-term evolution, is an area that’s gotten plenty of attention lately – following what TMC’s own Greg Galitzine called “a bad week” for the former.
In his talk, Chip will look at what aspect of WiMAX technology makes that long last mile cost effective, and how is WiMAX being offered as a data service or a bundled triple play.
During our interview (printed in full below), I found Chip an interesting person as well as an informed professional. Most the people who answer questions about their biggest career influences will cite early mentors or parents. Chip, clearly a history-lover, talks about a man who set the stage for modern telecommunications by calling for industry standards across the radio manufacturing space more than 70 years ago.
Our exchange follows.
Rich Tehrani: Who has influenced you most in your career and why?
Chip Spann: David “the General” Sarnoff. In 1936, the Radio Manufacturers Association set up a technical committee to seek agreement on industry standards, due largely to the persistence of Sarnoff. Although the committee fought over those standards for more than five years, Sarnoff insisted that he would initiate television service at the opening of the New York World’s Fair on 20 April 1939, standards or not. He did just that and set the stage by proving that being a visionary wasn’t enough; you often have to forge ahead with your vision even when your industry peers (or the FCC) disagree. That’s what made RCA great and that single action, forcing an industry to establish standards, set the stage for today’s telecom environment.
RT: What excites you most about our industry?
CS: That we are finally seeing real growth and deployments in the WiMAX industry after having spent years talking about it.
RT: To what areas do you wish you could devote more energy, attention and resources?
CS: Helping wireless ISPs, in rural towns, develop their wireless data and WiMAX systems.
RT: What pain does your company take away for customers?
CS: Connected Nation (News - Alert) believes that states, communities, families and individuals can realize great economic and social advantages when we accelerate broadband availability in underserved areas and increase broadband use in all areas, rural and urban alike. We strive to facilitate public-private partnerships to increase access to and use of broadband and related technology, creating dramatic results that translate into economic and community development, better education, higher quality healthcare, more efficient public service and improved quality of life. We are working in the trenches to truly help bridge the digital divide and increase opportunities that are enabled when people have the ability and desire to connect.
RT: How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
CS: We began as the Center for Information Technology Enterprises, Inc. Our grassroots approach took shape because we understand the need to improve Kentucky’s broadband infrastructure and that broadband was a large step towards economic stimulation. CiTE eventually evolved into ConnectKentucky, a program that began gaining national attention during the Fletcher administration in Kentucky. As we accepted engagements in other states our reputation grew. We were delivering real results to consumers and our work has helped shape regulatory policy across the United States, both at the state and federal levels. We hope to continue shaping broadband policy on the national level and assist states wherever the need exists.
RT: What does your dream mobile device look like?
CS: A cross between an iPhone, a BlackBerry (News - Alert) and a Nokia N85 but with a larger keyboard.
RT: If you were forced to head Nokia, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, GM, Cisco, Nortel or the US… Which would you pick and why?
CS: GM and Nortel both have uphill financial battles ahead so it’s probably best to leave the helm to others. President Obama has his arms around the issues in the United States and Bill Gates (News - Alert) seems to be doing just fine at Microsoft. So, of the remaining four I would choose Nokia. That way, I could design my own “dream mobile device.”
RT: Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the United States and abroad?
CS: Continue his focus on digital inclusion for consumers in rural America. We cannot continue as a nation of technological “haves and have nots.” Unfortunately, many of the “have nots” simply “can not.” If we agree that a stronger broadband infrastructure creates jobs, stimulates the economy, increases educational opportunities and improves the quality of life (especially in rural America) then there’s no better time than the present to tackle this issue.
RT: How has open-source changed our space and what more can it do for us? When does Microsoft become a major force in communications?
CS: I’ve worked with Microsoft off and on since the mid 1990’s on a host. From a computing and software perspective they have already helped redefine and shape the existing communications sector.
RT: Apple? RIM, Nokia?
CS: RIM and Nokia are already a major force. Apple gained ground with the iPhone but with Steve Jobs stepping aside due to health reasons they may lose their traction just a bit.
RT: What surprised you most about 2008?
CS: The wireless merger between Clearwire and Sprint. Somehow the immovable object and the unstoppable force realized that it was smarter to sidestep the collision and join forces. The industry needed that type of consolidation in order solidify standards and equipment sets if WiMAX is to truly flourish.
RT: Assuming we need it (and who couldn’t use some extra cash), what do we tell Congress to get a multibillion dollar U.S. government communications bailout?
CS: How about putting some of that money in the hands of every American and let him/her decide how to best stimulate the economy. I think it’s time for the American citizens to have a voice in the bailout discussions. Unemployment and home foreclosures are on the rise and the last few billions of economic stimulus dollars didn’t seem to get the ball rolling. It won’t do any good to stimulate the industry if we don’t have consumer participation.
RT: Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
CS: Not at all. In fact, groups like the Wireless Communications Association International are focusing on “green” more than ever. Their recent efforts are centered on promoting, developing and enhancing industry standards and best practices for energy reduction; educating government and operators on wireless technology’s green applications; developing governmental policies to promote the application of green technology; and advocating recycling and end-of-life planning for hardware.
RT: How does IP communications help in a recession?
CS: VoIP offers significant cost saving versus conventional long distance; video teleconferencing saves fuel cost and cuts down on travel time as compared to face-to-face meetings; and with other online collaboration services like WebEx you can conduct business anytime, anywhere for a fraction of the normal cost.
RT: You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb. 2 to 4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
CS: IP communications save money but nothing can replace personal networking.
RT: Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.
CS: Verizon and T-Mobile will merge, AT&T will develop a 4G network with a quadruple play service, and Larry the Cable Guy will make it through an entire year without using the phrase “Get ‘er done.”
Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world�s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Michael Dinan