Big Broadband Ideas

Big Ideas With the Potential to Substantially Change the Community

On September 3rd the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan workshop included two distinguished panels of academics and policy experts to focus on "Big Ideas," specifically the future of the Internet and broadband video content. The moderator, John Peha, the Chief Technology Officer of the FCC, framed the panels as discussions about the benefits the future might hold and the downfalls we might encounter as we move forward with the National Broadband Plan. The panelist spoke of the future of the Internet, the weaknesses and architecture of the Internet, and new trends in mobility, video and applications that will lead to further adoption.

Panel 1 - Future Of The Internet

Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said the era we just cam from will be the one with the most change not the one we are going into. He asked, How do we make the system we have work better? Big changes will come in intelligence, transportation, energy and environment censors. There will be more users, more wireless and more bits. We will require many more real time applications. But finally we will need an Internet that enables authentication. Many countries are making progress there by encrypting their citizens with authentications.

Additionally Atkinson said we could bring together all parts of the industry through partnership where companies, government and academia develop a research roadmap and all work together through these shared research centers. These partnerships will need federal leadership.

Dr. David D. Clark, Professor and Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, discussed four key points. First, broadband deployment is a continuing process and the goal of the FCC is sustainable broadband. Second, over the lifetime of the broadband plan the Internet will change greatly. Third, the structure of the industries implementing broadband may change. Finally, he asked why is it that almost one in four citizens report that they do not use the Internet?

Dr. Van Jacobson, Research Fellow at the Palo Alto Research Center, spoke about the time when the Internet was created and you carried the data in your hands, it was not meant to transport data around. The Web was never intended to carry so much content around. This mismatch in intent and use lead to problems with the Web that we are beginning to see. There was no security in the initial architecture, the security on the web really sucks and is not trustable. This is not a failure of operation or engineering; it is a failure of architecture.

UC Berkley's Dr. Scott Shenker, started off by asking, How can we improve the architecture? Change in infrastructure driven by industry. It is driven by large ISPs relying on expensive routers and proprietary software. Since providers therefore can't control forwarding path, the pace of innovation slow. He then pointed out that there is a new class of networks (Amazon and Google) as large as tier 1 ISPs and these companies refuse to use the proprietary software. They have transformed the infrastructure to low cost and open source software. Why should the FCC care about this? Because:

  • There is a new set of industry leaders (with huge teams of developers)
  • Costs will decrease dramatically
  • Pace of innovation will increase
  • Once you get the new infrastructure it may be possible to easily support new architecture cause some can be implemented just by changing software.

Dr. Taieb Znati of the National Science Foundation discussed how the Internet transforms lives and how lack of reliability is becoming a bigger hurdle. He asked, What is the network of the future and why should the FCC care? The network must be robust secure, ubiquitous, sustainable and predictable. In the context of development there are consistent stakeholders competing in the regulatory and legal environment, human and intellectual tussles over openness and ownership, and international competition. People are competing for IT services that create jobs wealth and value in our lives. US infrastructure is not as advanced as other countries. We need to set ambitious targets for broadband services, regulators must explore models that reduce bottlenecks and increase incentive for investments, states should foster commercial innovation and investment themselves.

Dr. Richard Green, the former President and CEO of CableLabs, commented that today we have a greater collection of stakeholders in the Internet. In order to solve the architectural problems we need to consider the stakeholders and what architectural concepts can address the issues. We also need research and experimentation. Sponsored research centers are a great idea.

Panel 1 Questions

1. Is it possible that with new switched different players can manage innovation; one might have multiple Internets running simultaneously with different protocols? Is this a new product line with different services?

a. Clark - People deeply believe in this idea and the possibility of different architecture preserving flexibility in the future. There are lots of problems but if you want different Internet in different places you can do so without going back and replacing the equipment. Might change whole sense of what it means to run facilities and what it means to be a network.

b. Znati - Virtualization will allow people to deploy network for specific purposes. Will not be easy.

2. Lot of discussion about last mile and middle mile capacity, will some of the changes discussed today make these greater bottlenecks or shift bottlenecks?

a. Clark - ISPs struggling with usage in the Video era. Is there something else after video that is demanding as video was after music? With Fiber build out you buy yourself quite a bit of time. If you make smart middle mile plans you make a capital investment that you can work off for a while. Answer for last mile depends on the technology base, interesting question is in wireless. Is wireless a compliment or a substitute to wireline?

b. Green - spent last decade worried about the last mile - hope that his work is helpful in providing an infrastructure that can expand and adapt 3rd Generation of the DOCIS Modem. Enormous capacity left in cable infrastructure.
c. Van Jacobson - For online Video, the problem is the first mile, unlike broadcast video, the fact that I pull the new video from YouTube cause them to use more bandwidth. For services with a high degree of sharing, because bandwidth is a function of popularity it is very hard to scale it out. You can improve the last mile but every time you do that there is a multiplicative effect on the first mile.

3. Is wireless a substitute for access? Are there different economically viable wirless architectures that could succeed

a. Clark - All architectures will be wired/ wireless hybrids. Overall architecture will be a clever idea of how to tradeoff hybrids.

4. Large agreement that we need innovation and broader penetration. What will be relation between these two efforts? Prediction of how innovation is going to happen and who is going to do it? Is there any relationship between that innovation process and the deployment process?

a. Clark - for penetration - Pew has rich data. The non users are elderly and the poor. There will be early takers and late takers, he suspects that if you can't do your taxes on the Internet you need to pay someone to do it. If we can drive cost down you will solve cost problem.
b. Atkinson - biggest factor in not using broadband is not using a computer, and not just a question of income. Can argue that innovation is only going to make things more complicated. This may be an area where we need more research, how do we make the use simpler without giving up flexibility?

5. Where will the innovation come from? How do we get it from lab to services in people hands? Does it look the same as it looked over the last 20 years or will it look different yet?

a. Clark - will never go back to a centralized Bell Labs system. Innovation like Google is extremely unregulated. Don't see us moving to a space where innovation occurs in a top down managed space.

b. Van Jacobson - You have a short term horizon due to markets, you can get really great things but larger innovation needs a much larger time horizon.

c. Atkinson - Need to find a sweet spot. US 40th in innovation based factors. Innovation has been simple.

6. What did not happen in the development of the Internet that you could have reasonably expected to happen? What did happen that might have been a surprise? If the government played a role in any of that, how did it?

a. Shenker - Expected Video to become important much earlier

b. Van Jacobson - Last step for video was the compression technology, video compression technology was going to happen when the vectors lined up. We did not have a last mile that was going to let the video fit.

c. Green - HD took longer than it should have, government played a role in that because they set the US standard but it languished in the market place, because large screen TV's that weren't bulky and expensive didn't exist

d. Znati - Two things. Surprised that the Ethernet is still around and being used and surprised about Quality of service. Ether net was simple. Quality of service paradigms did not last because they were not simple.

7. Ethernet inventor said the Internet will collapse. Internet did not collapse.

a. Atkinson - surprised about the digital signature act.
b. Clark - coming up on the 20th anniversary of the 1st worm. Never though the security problem would have taken so long.

8. National Broadband Plan - if drafters want a broadband infrastructure that is cutting edge and as useful to society as possible - In research are we funding it in the most important things in most important ways? How do we keep innovation moving?

a. Shenker - It is not just dollars.

b. Atkinson - risk is that we need a regulatory framework that regulates innovation at the core. Second, we need longer term research.

c. Clark - have to look at the whole pipeline to figure out what is right and what is wrong. Amount of money we are spending is miserable! Does country care about being technologically in the lead? Allow bigger projects to occur. Students not wanting to go into research but choosing short term industry are a structural problem.

Panel 2 - Internet TV

Vuze CEO Gilles BianRosa says disruption is key for positive change, protection ruins competition and innovation. They rely on peer-to-peer community where content can go straight to consumers. Old companies are trying to slow down and control innovations as to not disrupt their established revenues. Consumers want more long form video and portability to move the video between devices. FCC needs policy to foster innovation.

CableLabs President and CEO Richard R. Green talked about cable as a leader in the broadband platform. DOCIS 3.0 was designed to increase transmission speed for consumers. Cable provides more speed and more security. Cable will work to bring faster broadband to more Americans.

Angela K. Morgenstern, the Managing Director of PBS Online pointed out that PBS Online is now reaching new and younger audiences that want video and HD Video. She found that people are watching much longer than expected, and also seem to be watching at new peak hours during the evenings. PBS Kids is a commercial technology that is working in the broadband sector. Online video expands their mission and have always paired up with local communities in educational effort. Streaming video in the classrooms is up. PBS is a leader for information for Pre K classrooms, but pre k classrooms tend to be wired the least.

Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge pointed out that 158 million watched video over the Internet. Video can further the goals for the broadband plan. The federal government must help foster the goals through promoting competition, openness and ensuring broadband is accessible to all. Recommendations to the FCC with regards to the NBP:
Publicly acknowledge the importance of broadband video and encourage its use by enforcing openness with regards to network management.
Scrutinize TV everywhere and tying of content to ISPs as well as the use of broadband caps to make sure they are not used for anticompetitive reasons.
Encourage innovation in the hardware and software marketplace by rigorously enforcing Sec 629 of the Communications Act.
Ensure over the top video providers have the same protection and access to programming as to other video providers.
Consumers should be able to buy their video and broadband service separately without being penalized if they don't.

Sezmi's Phil Wiser's big idea is essentially that TV as a portal to information is very powerful. Video is powerful because it gives information you can't get from text or other means. Growth in broadband video is not reaching everyone; the number of users is not growing. Broadband is not in homes because there is a lack of understanding of the value of the information and complexity. We do not benefit from service providers who restrict the information that flows over the pipes. We have also yet to find an economic motor for delivering broadband video over the web

Dr. David D. Clark, Professor and Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, wanted to stress the importance of money and advertising. He asks the question, where is the money? There is a fear that the video experience might erode to nothing and consumers will reap all benefit. There will be fights over the money and fights over the privilege of Ad placement. The person who can sell an Ad for the most money is the person who knows the most about you. Therefore he believes that the concern about deep packet inspection has been silly. The fights will be between who should be privileged to receive consumer Ad dollars? ISP's knows about you because they watch what you watch and Google knows what you search.

Panel 2 Questions

158 million people watching online. Do we know in what form? What does that do to the network? Are there bottlenecks? Does it change what consumers need?

  • Wiser - YouTube dominates. Mostly user generated. Extension from 5 to 25 minutes will mean there is more time for advertising and commercial content to be delivered. It will also mean consumers might move from a computer to a living room and the type and level of engagement might change as well.
  • BianRosa - if you hit website once it counts a users - after 60 seconds you have lost 60% of your audience. Emergence of video is growing but clips on YouTube capped to 100Mbps.
  • Green - People with different screen sizes watch different formats. It can be delivered in many different ways. 85% of the video is pre recorded in a file, sending a file is much more network friendly.

Is there a tension to optimizing for less congestion and optimizing competition?

  • Sohn - when we talk about content be very careful - much of what you watch is user generated. Most of it is independent never in the Hollywood studios.
  • Wiser - Separation of services and transport. Binding of services to the transport into the home is an impediment to the consumer. There are decades of contractual restrictions that the industry must move beyond. The bundling off services and pipes is dangerous for the consumer.
  • BianRosa - danger is that cable industry has a lot of leverage over the content providers.
  • Green - cable operators have a very good business with broadband - very important in competitive world. Others would want to swoop in and take away customer if their is abuse and the customer is disadvantaged
  • Clark - Dissemination of information as a platform and not as a service. Peer to peer is one platform, and is very creative; it was the one that could be built without anyone's permission. Who can build an efficient platform and who can duck around people saying no and yes.
  • Wiser - P2P, as an answer to commercial distribution has some value (in closed network) but is not a solution.
  • BianRosa - P2P has been evolving for a while, pirating is a problem but content can be distributed reasonably.

To what extent is there a bottleneck to further adoption in the devices and technology and in the network?

  • BianRosa - consumers cannot necessarily switch content from one device to another with ease. There will be friction when it comes to standards.
  • Morgenstern - services and applications help consumers teach and share experiences - An example is the war documentary where Veterans sought the application to share their experience.
  • Sohn - Don'tget hung up on video as a driver of adoption - video fails compared to social network and email and other applications. Would love to see a world where you can take any non harmful device and hook it to you network. Set top box device market is controlled by the cable. Section 6.9 and uniformity of devices has not been enforced

The business model for distribution of content is changing. Traditional media broadcast TV - are there expectations that they provide programs of the public interest? How are the new developments impacting the ability of tradition media to fulfill functions?

  • Wiser - broadband video is a better way to promote educational information because you could better target it.
  • Morgenstern - more opportunity to gauge what the public needs - if FCC can engage the community they can find out how to define needs of community.
  • Sohn - Online will take advantage of localism problem and fix it. - Cable has helped out with localism.

How do we encourage build out to unserved areas if the business model involving advertising when it comes to video will not survive there?

  • Wiser- Wireless to get to those homes is the best and scale up based on usage.
  • Sohn - business model will be around for a while - When talking about unserved there is rural and then there is a guy on a mountain top - for vast majority of unserved, use wireless service allowing whitespaces in rural areas to be higher powered.

How important is video for Internet for education.

  • Morgenstern - power is that parents can track development and education of children. Teachers less interested in flat lesson plans. Whether purpose built video or interactive game interested in targeted info they need for the platform experience. Teachers prefer to pre load, but from a content perspective there is a vast storehouse of teachable material. We haven't imagined what the application could be in the future.