It is undeniable that broadband and cable have made tremendous strides in 2013, and 2014 is shaping up to be just as progressive. As technology evolves, so must its infrastructure and pundits believe that we are on a precipice of something great, though the picture hasn’t fully been painted just yet. Broadband US TV brought together a panel of experts to review the past year and discuss trends going into 2014. Some of the highlights:
– IP Transition: A hot button topic in FCC circles has been FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s dedication to the IP transition despite his hesitancy to jump in with both feet. “The FCC and Congress have a responsibility not only looking at policies, but to prevent disruptions,” said Jeff Silva, senior telecom analyst with the Media Advisors Group. Members of the panel all agreed that shifting from the traditional copper infrastructure to IP-based communication would be no simple task, with small businesses worried about latency and buffering, according to Harold Feld, SVP of Public Knowledge. “We want to see a tech upgrade” along with the phase out, Feld said. Knowing just how delicate this huge undertaking is, Wheeler has started tapping the brakes on the transition while he attempts to carefully navigate the industry’s way through this snowstorm.
– Net Neutrality: Yes, we’re still waiting on the courts to rule on Verizon’s challenge of the FCC’s Open Internet principles. In the meantime, AT&T made noise at CES this week by announcing its sponsored data plan for wireless, in which companies can pay for customers’ data usage of their products. The idea has raised the hackles of consumer groups. Silva believes sponsored data will become the norm, but he doesn’t believe net neutrality is going to be settled any time soon. It doesn’t look like AT&T’s sponsored data plan would fall under existing FCC rules, which deal with wireline. At CES on Wed, Wheeler said he’d take a wait-and-see approach and intervene only if it interfered with the Internet or developed into an anti-competitive practice.
– 1 Gigabit: 2013 also saw a lot of gigabit broadband buzz. “Google really changed the game with the fiber network,” said Paul Gallant, telecom policy analyst for Guggenheim Securities. While Precursor Group President Scott Cleland believes the gigabit would be beneficial to organizations and cities, he still believes “a gigabit to a house is wasteful and ridiculous” without advanced enough consumer applications to take up the bandwidth. “There was a lot of demand and economic potential and [implementing] it wasn’t as hard as a lot of people were thinking,” argued Feld.
– Communications Act Update: The advancement of broadband has stirred up a lot of conversation on the Hill with regards to the Telecom Act Reform. “Now that Congress is looking at the foundation of the Communications Act, it will have an over-hang on everything the FCC does,” Cleland said. That includes any potential cable consolidation, added Silva.
While all the panelists made their bold predictions for 2014, perhaps Cleland made the most interesting prediction of all. “The de-Americanization of the Internet” snowballed by the Snowden effect and NSA leaks. The internet has traditionally been an American service, where the big tech companies have based headquarters out of and probably more importantly, where data is stored. Countries outside of America such as China and South Korea are requiring companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook to route their traffic through their own domestic domain extension.