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Cisco Launches Broadband Game, Puts Everyman in Shoes of Telecom Execs

in Net Neutrality/NTIA/Recovery Act by

WASHINGTON, November 2, 2009 – Cisco Systems has released a new computer game that puts the common man in the shoes of a broadband executive making deployment decisions. The company’s myPlanNet game attempts to make broadband deployment easy to understand – and perhaps forces broadband activists to walk in the shoes of the network executive grappling with tough issues like the underserved and Net neutrality.

As a service provider in Cisco’s myPlanNet, the player manages his or her business as it evolves from the stone ages of dial-up, through the broadband and mobile connected eras, and into what it calls “the dawning of the medianet age.” Liu said the game starts out in 1990 and goes on for 25 years, looking ahead – a bit – into the future six years.

The game does not make  an overt attempt to reference the federal government’s broadband stimulus funding – or the national broadband plan currently under development by the Federal Communications Commission.

But players – a/k/a broadband service providers – are forced to grapple with thorny questions like network neutrality.

“Certainly network neutrality is one of the topics that is addressed in the game,” Stephen Liu, the designer and architect of the game, told

He said the game enables the service provider to initiate his or her own services and deal with services from other companies such as cloud computing applications that use more bandwidth.

Liu said he would encourage those with an interest in the progress of the FCC’s proposed rules to go and check out the game. Last month, the agency announced preliminary rules for regulating internet access by service providers.

“[The game is] not going to solve any world hunger issues,” said Liu. “But it might be a nice fun way to understand the perspective of a service provider and identify with the challenges they face.”

MyPlanNet was released on Oct. 5 at an International Telecommunication Union in Geneva, Switzerland, and is the product of an internal innovation contest at Cisco.

Liu, who is a senior marketing manager, says the game was a side project of his for over a year. He was looking for a way to engage customers with marketing and thought his game would target the intellectual side of issues by “introducing these complex topics in a more fun way than you would get from” reading white papers.

Liu calls myPlanNet an educational tool that puts a “human touch” on evolving technology challenges and also helps to place them within a broader context. The game does simulate historic timeline contexts and how “technology is needed to deploy advance services as your community evolves,” said Liu.

Game aside, Cisco told Monday that the company supports an “open Internet” – at least in theory. The company said consumers “should be able to access any lawful content, run any lawful application and attach any nonharmful equipment to broadband networks” and “customer choice and competitive markets are important to maintaining openness.”

Cisco feels that the existing “FCC principles are sufficient to maintain an “open Internet;” it would prefer for the FCC to address Net neutrality issues on a case-by-case basis.

Cisco added that “all questions need to be addressed based upon the facts and technology, not some preconceived ideology” and “an open and competitive Internet must include the ability of network operators to innovate within the network.”

Cisco stated that strict “nondiscrimination” rules will prevent managing networks from supporting real-time services such as teleworking and distance learning. Cisco also noted that “innovation occurs both in and out of the network.” Cisco plans to weigh in on the FCC’s proposed rules as the process advances.

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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