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Freedom to Connect Panelists Hopeful About Prospects for 'Smart Grid'

in Broadband's Impact by

SILVER SPRING, Md., April 1, 2009 – Panelists speaking at the Freedom to Connect conference here on Tuesday hopefully urged the possibility that electrical “smart grids” could bring utilities into competition with incumbent telecommunications companies.

Atlantic Engineering Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer James Salter said that smart grids would make more economic sense, and also constituted an increased “moral responsibility” for the environment.

Terry Huval, director of the Lafayette, Louisiana, Utility System’s fiber-to-the-home project, said that his system would help bring broadband to everyone in the state.

The FTTH project in Lafayette benefited from bipartisan political support, highlighting existing and emerging benefits of new technology.

“One of our successes has been the Video Internet Phone, which has ensured best customer value,” he said.

Huval said Lafayette benefited from consulting widely and listening to the opinions that it gathered. “We listened to the community, and that is why we have been able to talk about success,” he said.

Lack of computer hardware, he said, remained a major handicap in bridging the digital divide.

This, he said, led the Lafayette local authority turning to television subscriptions - at $51 a month - as the medium for bringing consumers to their fiber solution.

“Cable TV is the most important driver to what we are doing,” he said.

If everything falls into place, he said, Medicare, education, gaming, the movie industry, as well as the financial sector, could benefit from improved broadband access.

Moderating,'s Geoff Daily said that creating next-generation innovations would require a move towards fiber and wireless technology, and was contingent on America's can-do spirit.

Tim Denton, a commissioner at Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, advised that Americans might be interested in Canada's experience in attempting to develop a comprehensive framework for the regulation of all forms of media.

But Denton also warned they would have to beware of Canada's strong nationalistic and protectionist tendencies.

During the public comment session, members of the public called for a uniformity in standards when it comes to smart grids, and possibilities for local initiatives to learn from their peers engaged in similar projects.

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