A MACRO ENGINEERING PERSPECTIVE
OF THE CONVERGENCE AND
THE NEXT GENERATIONS’ PUBLIC NETWORK
By Jack Thompson
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the breakup of the best Public Network system in the world, we should reflect on the Public Policy success that was the Bell System. It took fifty years of dedicated work by the telephone pioneers and generations of telecom workers and regulators that followed them to achieve the goal of “universal” and “affordable” voice communications services. That was the Public Policy “Goal” set by our “grandfathers”. For its time, it was a formidable challenge. What kind of Public Network will we build for ourselves next and leave to our grandchildren? To focus only on broadband is to set our Public Policy sights much too low.
Another round of politically expedient and incremental approaches to telecom, cable and TV regulatory reform and putting positive spin on negative results will only lead to continued chaos in these converging sectors of the American economy. The Telecom Reform Act of 1996 was a total disaster leading to billions of dollars of wasted capital investment, fraud, and the ultimate collapse of a whole industry sending hundreds of thousands of innocent high tech workers to the unemployment line.
It is time for today’s generation of policy makers to not only learn from recent history, but to also recognize the lessons learned by our grandfathers. We have not only an opportunity, but also the duty to commit to the design and building of a converged Public Network architecture and regulatory framework that will meet our current information and entertainment needs AND be our multiple Media network legacy to future generations of Americans.
To do this we must first recognize the realities and opportunities we face from all sides and take no side in the issue but that of the general Public interest.
CURRENT PUBLIC POLICY DILEMAS:
- Even if DSL and cable modems are deployed ubiquitously, considering their inherent limitations, we will fall way short of meeting the needs of our Public Network for the next several generations of Americans
- Facilities-based competition can and will likely continue to evolve between Telco and Cable providers for high-speed services over their “existing cable plant”.However, competition WILL NOT encourage either of them to deploy fiber to the home and the services this “new cable plant” can offer (nor will private investment return to the sector with any enthusiasm)
- Broadband, as currently defined, CAN NOT deliver DTV, HDTV or Computers on Demand
THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
- It existed before broadband became the current policy buzz and will continue if the policy makers do not address it now (only 56.5% of U.S. households have PCs)
- Not just PC ownership is at issue, but also the economics of their continual obsolescence and need for upgrades and maintenance
WHAT WILL BE THE NEW PUBLIC SERVICE OR “KILLER APP” TO JUSTIFY THE DEPLOYMENT OF NEW INFRASTRUCTURE?
- HD Video-on-Demand could be it, but VOD can be something much more worthy of our effort and investment…VOD can be COD…”Computers” on Demand!
What kind of Public Network will WE build for OUR Grandchildren?
NATIONAL INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE (Wireline)
For » 70% of U.S. Households
LAST MILE REALITIES:
- The “Last Mile” distribution medium is a “natural monopoly” utility right-of-way environment(How many times do you want your backyard dug up?)
- The Last Mile is the most capital-intensive environment (If building the Information Superhighway is so expensive, WHY would we try to build more than one?)
- EACH of the existing distribution media (copper and coax) have “finite” bandwidth and broadband limitations
- The NEXT Last Mile distribution medium WILL BE Fiber-to-the-Home or FTTH (The Public Policy question is WHEN?)
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF UNIVERSAL SERVICE IN THE LAST MILE:
- Each provider (Telco, Cable) deployed a “new distribution medium” offering a “new Public Utility service”
- Universal Service was only guaranteed when each of the providers (and their private investors) were granted “exclusivity” for their particular medium providing a Public utility service
- Each provider has relevant “common carriage” (Telco) and “must-carry” (Cable) requirements
NATIONAL INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE
- FTTH is the only new distribution medium without bandwidth limitations for the foreseeable future
- Neither Telco nor Cable (nor anyone else) will deploy FTTH without the exclusive right to do so AND the right to be a “full service provider”
- The nature of existing Telco (P2P) and Cable (P2MP) services are different and complex enough to justify continuance of separate regulations (VD-1 & VD-2)
- FTTH must support BOTH Telco (VD-1) and Cable (VD-2) services and regulations
- FTTH must be a “common carrier” with “equal and non-discriminatory access and interconnection” and its “own rules” (i.e., VD-3)
- FTTH must be deployed by a “3rd party Utility Company” that is Telco/Cable neutral with its own long term (50 years?) exclusive right-of-way (THIS is the only way to attract the “substantial” private investment necessary for a universal FTTH buildout)
FTTH PROVIDER OPTIONS:
|· Telco/Cable Cooperative joint venture||· Municipality|
|· Electric Utility||· USPS-like federal entity|
|· Other Private non-Telco/Cable entity|
HOW WE CAN FINALLY CLOSE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
To truly close the digital divide we must address the home computer. Is it possible for “everyone” to have affordable access to the “latest in computer hardware, software, and the fastest network connections”? YES it is! The solution is a network based “telecomputer” system.
A PUBLIC TELECOMPUTER NETWORK SYSTEM
(Transitional Phase to a Fiber-based Telecomputer System shown)
HOW IT WORKS:
- PCs are located in centralized facilities where they can be traffic engineered, upgraded as required, maintained, and accessed “on-demand” by the Public using their existing telephone connections
- A user tunes their TV to a Public Telecomputer Network access video channel (analog or digital) and calls the associated telephone number
- Once connected to the Telecomputer, the user then sends their computer inputs as telephone keypad signaling (touch-tones or DTMF) while viewing the results in real time on their TV
REQUIREMENTS FOR BEST RESULTS:
- Equal and non-discriminatory access to real time high-resolution common carrier video channels and interconnection rights
- FTTH and Universal DTV and HDTV availability on demand
THE PUBLIC BENEFITS:
- No need for a home computer with their burden of purchase, maintenance and replacement for most information and entertainment needs and desires
- Imagine, even dial-up access to super computers on demand is possible
THE IDEAL NATIONAL INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE
- Central office and cable headend-based facilities (Telco, Cable and 3rd Party) equipped with a variety of the latest in computers, software and highest speed data connections to ISPs and content providers of choice (new and large market for the PC manufacturers)
- The 3rd-party telecomputer operator with exclusive FTTH rights-of-way manages the Covergence Nodes, FTTH cable plant and fiberoptic NIDs
THE COVERGENCE NODE:
- Provides open access to a “full service network” of Telco, Cable and 3rd-Party ultra high-speed services and interconnections over FTTH cable plant
- Service examples include Telco provided video teleconferencing, tele-education and tele-medicine services while Cable operators provide DTV and HDTV programming on demand
- New and unimagined information and entertainment services from a revived dot.com community yearning for the bandwidth that FTTH offers
- Competition will be in the exclusive services and content that the Cable and Telco operators could now offer in addition to those equal access Public services and content offered by the 3rd-Party Telecomputer agent…not in the last mile facilities
- Competition between the various parties to win the exclusive rights to be the Public Telecomputer Network (PTN) operator in a given subscriber service area (for VD-3 regulations, telco and cable subscribers are one in the same)
A PUBLIC TELECOMPUTER NETWORK
Meeting the Universal Service Promise
From a macro engineering perspective, there will always be those areas in the country where a wireline solution is not economical, impractical or not yet available. Therefore, the Public Telecomputer Network architecture, policy, and regulations must take this reality into consideration. It is primarily in this area where “wireless” technologies in both licensed and unlicensed spectrum will play a significant role.
Consequently, for Public Telecomputer Network to truly provide services universally, it must be designed with technology and regulations that will also work and can be applied in an exclusively wireless environment. These technologies and such a telecomputer network architecture exists today and can achieve this universality. The only thing missing is the Public will and Policy to…
- Set the new “National Goal”
- Define the rules and objectives
- Let the competitions for the “exclusive rights” begin
- Award the rights and begin building a Public Network for the next several generations of Americans as our grandparents did for us
Our computer and telecom manufacturers and suppliers along with
hundreds of thousands of unemployed hi-tech workers and the General Public will greatly appreciate it