Better Broadband Better Lives

'Big Ideas' on Broadband Likely to Push Threshold of User Adoption, Say FCC Experts

in FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, September 3, 2009 -  The Federal Communications Commission broadband workshop on Thursday addressed “big ideas” with the “potential to substantially change the Internet,” in which a range of prominent thinkers attempted to peer into the future of connectivity.

Although there is reason why internet service speeds remains at the center of the policy discussion,  “speed of broadband is not the only essential topic of expansion,” said David Clark, professor and senior research scientist at the MIT computer science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “However, it is the most obvious.”

Increasing speeds of broadband have created a domino effect on applications.

A concern brought up by Van Jacobsen, research fellow at Palo Alto Research Center, is that advancing broadband speeds do not ensure higher quality of security. That will need to be addressed as new services roll out, he said.

“Internet is a big part of our lives,” said Jacobsen. We use it for online banking, to pay bills and to check updates on our checking account. When you want to transfer funds online, are you giving your account number to the bank or to the host that is supposedly representing your bank?”

University of California at Berkley Professor of Computer Science Scott Shencker said that changes in the infrastructure of services could bring about a more competitive marketplace, which would provide a range of lifestyle options. “Competition of creating higher security and a low cost commodity [for broadband services] could make services more affordable to many consumers,” he said.

Others cited the advancement of video streaming as an example of the impact that new broadband services has had on a wide range of professions.

PBS Online Managing Director Angela Morgenstern said, “PBS is meeting the needs of teachers. They have gone past the formal lesson plan and moved on to digital lesson plans.” It is more convenient to use online videos for classroom instruction than to use a DVD, she said.

She noted a deal recently struck by PBS and Panache, which provides educational games on top of childrens’ shows and videos, allows children to play interactive online games not only at school, but also at home. Children playing these interactive games do so repeatedly.

“In services that are provided, simplicity is important,” said Taieb Znati, division director of the National Science Foundation. “The reason the invention of Ethernet has lasted so long is because of how simple it is.”

However, as easy as it is to have an educational video streaming into a classroom or have a music video streaming through a college student’s laptop, the number of views has not grown, said Znati.

“Since 2007, videos that have been watched have increased by a factor of three,” Znati said. “However, the number of users is not growing. It is still at 50 percent or less.”

Another suggestion of increasing availability of accessible broadband services will be brought to the FCC when it begins to map out the national broadband plan.

An intern at the National Journalism Center and a student at American University’s Washington Semester Program, Christina is a Reporter-Researcher for She is a student at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

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