No doubt about it. We are living in an incredibly transformative time in the technology industry. New innovative technologies are emerging, new companies are being founded here in Silicon Valley and in other innovation centers around the world, new alliances are being formed and consolidation is happening everywhere. All of these things are important, interesting, and the topic of many a conversation. We all love technology and a good competitive fight. There is however, another transformation underway that ultimately is likely to have an even more dramatic impact on the future direction of this country -- the creation of arguably the most Internet technology savvy administration that this country has ever seen. There have of course been innovative technology bright spots in the past (Al Gore really was a big advocate of communications and Internet-related technology even if he did ultimately get misquoted as saying he invented the Internet ... but that's a topic for another day). The point is that the current administration has expressed a refreshing willingness to promote and use technology to drive efficiency in government. The creation of a national technology leadership role and the appointment of Aneesh Chopra as the nation's first Federal CTO is a great step forward.
Mr. Chopra has expressed a desire to use technology to transform our economy and our society, such as fostering private sector innovation, overhauling health IT, and using technology to transform the educational system. At the risk of stating the obvious (and maybe coming off as a little self serving), I'd like to point out that the fundamental underpinning that makes all of this possible is universal, unfettered, high speed access from the people that consume and use the information to the places where the information ultimately lives -- in the data and compute centers of business and our federal government. Unfortunately, few would argue that we are woefully behind as a nation in providing this type of public access consistently across this country. Ultimately to provide this universal service, Mr. Chopra should concentrate on achieving three major policy goals:
1. Dramatically expand the penetration of high-speed broadband access throughout this country. To schools, to small businesses, to under served rural communities, to inner cities and municipalities. Everywhere. All the time. At a reasonable cost. And from multiple providers.
2. Fix the cellular wireless infrastructure. We are the laughing stock of the world. Infighting over communications technologies, spectrum, access to markets -- all complex issues no doubt -- have led to a fractured, inefficient, and largely non-interoperable system of communications in this country. Phones don't work on different cellular networks in the same city. High speed mobile access barely works on anything except the iPhone (apologies in advance to Mr. Obama and his Blackberry). Municipal services like fire and police can't communicate with one another during times of emergency. Set out a fair, sane policy for access to spectrum, demand interoperability between competing technologies (or pick one), and provide businesses streamlined access to build next generation communications services.
3. Mandate net neutrality. Long term, guaranteed, fair access to services utilizing our national information infrastructure -- the Internet -- should be guaranteed without reservation and without questions. Once this is in place, businesses will feel empowered to offer the kind of transformative services that you talk about.
By adopting a clear, simple, universal, nationally accepted policy on communications access, businesses will flourish and we'll ultimately pave the way for an information technology driven transformation of government and information access in general. And we'll all benefit in the end.