People, policy and new perspectives. That’s what makes the INCOMPAS Policy Summit the premier event for the tech conversations that are driving the future.
From the Newseum stage in Washington, D.C., this year’s speakers did not disappoint. With topics ranging from broadband deployment and open internet, to 5G and the Internet of Things, it’s clear that competition remains the primary force behind the streaming revolution and the deployment of new networks.
Putting policies that foster innovation and creativity in place is the key to unleashing investment and innovation, creating jobs, and lowering prices for consumers. Here are some highlights from the day:
Continuing the long tradition of bipartisan ideas and solutions that have made American technology and networks the envy of the world, INCOMPAS began the morning with keynote remarks from several Members of Congress.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) opened up the morning with a passionate call to remove barriers to broadband deployment. She has co-sponsored the Dig Once and Climb Once Acts in Congress, aimed at streamlining the process for deploying new networks and infrastructure. She also expressed her support for including broadband in any infrastructure bill considered by Congress.
Next up was the dynamic bipartisan duo of Congressmen Bob Latta (R-OH) and Peter Welch (D-VT) — two men fighting to bring broadband to rural America and close the digital divide. Stressing the need to bring broadband to “unserved” areas, they warned that small businesses on Main Street are at risk of being cut-off from the future without high-speed networks. Precision farming is also dependent on connectivity, which is why the agriculture sector needs to get active on deployment issues.
Open Internet: Will Congress Act?
Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) gave one of the most rousing and news-making keynotes of the day. The Republican had previously, upon speaking with his constituents in Colorado, called on the FCC to stand down on their ill-fated vote to repeal net neutrality protections. At the Summit, Rep. Coffman announced he will be introducing legislation to cement bipartisan net neutrality protections of no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization into law. During his remarks, Rep. Coffman declared, “The Internet should be a place where all can participate — free from unnecessary barriers. In fact, the founding principle of the internet holds that those who provide the on-ramps to the Internet, should not control what happens on the Internet.”
Congressman Coffman is on the right track. INCOMPAS conducted a poll and found an incredible 80 percent of Americans — Republican, Democrat, and Trump voters — support strong open internet principles. A majority of voters said the internet has improved since 2015, and consumers are reaping the benefits of streaming, cloud computing, lower prices, and more competitive choices.
The incredible backlash to the FCC repeal vote is loudest from Main Street and young Americans eager to start a new business. Actions by the National Association of Realtors, Burger King and Sonos indicate that Main Street is ready for this fight, which explains the momentum behind the Congressional Review Act vote in the Senate, the new possibility of a Republican-led effort to save net neutrality in the House, and actions by States to fill the gap.
What About the Courts?
Breaking down the court challenges to the FCC order, Markham Erickson, a Partner at Steptoe & Johnson and INCOMPAS’ outside counsel, discussed the legal road ahead for net neutrality. Erickson was optimistic, explaining that the Courts have a long history of supporting net neutrality under the Communications Act. INCOMPAS filed the most detailed and substantive legal filings in the FCC docket last year and will continue to lead the charge.
Building the Networks of the Future
The lack of broadband competition in America is a national disappointment: 89% of Americans only have one or two choices of broadband provider. It is a major problem that is slowing down our economy and holding back the future of applications and software — technology that will change the world.
But it was refreshing to hear success stories from companies mounting a challenge to incumbents. Moderated by Andrew Lipman, Partner at Morgan Lewis, our Building the Future panel included John Burchett, Head of Public Policy, Google Access & Google Fiber, who discussed how a refocused and refreshed Google Fiber is changing the marketplace. Burchett noted that when Google Fiber entered a new market — usually as the 3rd provider — incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast upgrade their networks to compete with Google Fiber’s gigabit service. Plus, broadband prices for consumers drop. In fact, in Atlanta, GA, incumbents dropped their prices by $25 just from a Google Fiber deployment announcement! That’s a clear sign that monopoly markets are broken, and competition provides the cure.
Microsoft’s Paula Boyd who is Senior Director, Government & Regulatory Affairs spoke about the innovative use of white spaces and spectrum, as Microsoft’s groundbreaking rural initiative to deliver broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas enters year two.
Windstream’s VP of Government Affairs, Malena Barzilai, and Fatbeam’s CEO, Greg Green, stressed the need to remove regulatory barriers and local red tape that are holding back new deployment. Uniti Fiber’s VP and Deputy General Counsel of Governmental Affairs, Jeff Strenkowski, thanked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for leading the conversation to help streamline the state and local permitting processes. The panelists were hopeful that recommendations from the BDAC process will result in action.
On the question of new federal funding for broadband infrastructure, panelists warned that federal funding must not only be reserved for incumbent providers. In order to spur innovation and investment, competition must have the same opportunity to drive new deployments. Historically, smaller companies take more risks and invest in next generation technology.
The Consumer Commissioner
Competition and consumers have no better champion than FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. She’s a fighter filled with grace, substance and passion who has earned the title of the “Consumer Commissioner.”
In her keynote address, Clyburn called out the FCC’s outrageous turn on business data services, describing the move to classify markets with only one broadband provider competitive as shameful and dangerous.
But she did find two “bright spots” in the FCC’s agenda: a One Touch, Make Ready policy for pole attachments, as well as bringing broadband competition to consumers living in apartments, condos and low income housing. INCOMPAS shares her optimism that these are two areas the FCC can continue to make progress on in a bipartisan manner.
The Streaming Revolution
The result of strong open internet policies are clear. We are living in a streaming revolution, where consumers and creators are reaping unprecedented benefits. Consumers are cutting the cord in record numbers — 22 million adults did so last year alone, saving hundreds of dollars a month on cable. Plus, new streaming companies invested $15 billion in creative content in 2017.
On our Streaming Revolution panel moderated by Dave Kumar, Partner at Goldberg, Godles, Wiener & Wright, our experts included David Morken, CEO and Chairman of Bandwidth; Monica Desai, Director of Global Public Policy at Facebook; Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax; and Colin Crowell, VP of Global Public Policy & Philanthropy at Twitter. They spoke about the opportunity streaming video can bring to communities around the globe if we allow an open internet to flourish.
Crowell and Desai discussed how the ability to stream from your phone — anywhere in the world — is empowering people to bear witness to history is ways consumers never imagined. Crowell said Twitter’s media features and streaming video are giving voice and rebirth to localism, especially for journalists, who use these tools to help tell more stories all over the world. Even with numerous sports channels on cable, consumers are looking to live streaming services to bring local and specific sports they love, from lacrosse and high school football, to Olympic qualifying events.
Morken and Ivanov discussed how over-the-top services are transforming how enterprises conduct business, including how they connect to current and potential customers.
Rocket Fiber: The Network Revitalizing Detroit
Rocket Fiber’s Co-Founder and CEO, Marc Hudson, gave a forthright, honest and truly inspirational keynote.
At the heart of the comeback story in Detroit is Rocket Fiber. In a city where 60 percent of residents didn’t have access to fixed broadband, Rocket Fiber came to town and built a state of the art fiber network and now delivers Gigabit speeds for less than $75 dollars. The network has been an important part of the revitalization effort, bringing businesses back to downtown.
Last year, Recode named Rocket Fiber the 3rd fastest network in America, edged out only by two of Google Fiber’s networks. This year, Rocket Fiber’s CEO, Marc, pledged that they’re going for number one.
Internet of Things
Sheba Chacko, Chief Regulatory Counsel of BT in the Americas; Holly Borgmann Head of Government Affairs of ADT; and Melissa Glidden Tye, Vice President, Public Policy of Verizon showed us how the Internet of Things is revolutionizing our day-to-day lives.
Moderated by Alexi Maltas, Partner at Hogan Lovells, our panelists talked about how smart agriculture allows farmers to live monitor their livestock’s health, and how consumers can now arm their home security systems with their smartphones from anywhere in the world. Companies like Verizon are working to deploy the 5G networks that will fuel our connected lives. We are just beginning to scratch the surface, and the potential for the Internet of Things devices and applications will change the way we work and live. This all-star panel was packed with bright and optimistic possibilities for the future.
Business Strategy in the Technological Age
We closed the day with a panel of our C-level leaders from technology companies. Moderated by John Heitmann, Partner at Kelley Drye, these expert panelists discussed their business strategies for success.
Tim Koxlien, CEO of TeleQuality, spoke of the transformative impact broadband has on rural hospitals and the ability of doctors to provide remote care — stating, “the promise of telemedicine can revolutionize rural healthcare.”
TeleQuality recently merged with Education Networks of America and said the strategy of connecting schools and other anchor institutions to fiber could be central to meeting our nation’s infrastructure goals.
If you are a retail business customer of Granite Telecom, then you have reason to be excited by CIO Chris Chapin’s plans for the future. Granite Telecom, currently serves over 85 of the Fortune 100 companies, and it sees tremendous opportunity and utility in 5G growth for current and potential customers.
James Capuano, Executive Vice President & Chief Operations Officer of First Light Fiber, explained that as his company works to scale and grow, they are focused on removing barriers to deployment. He pointed to current legislation like the Dig Once and Climb Once Acts as great first steps and urged Congress to move on those policies.
A New Day for Competition:
From start to finish at this year’s INCOMPAS Policy Summit, one thing was clear: Competition unites us. Fiber-builder, device-maker or internet edge provider, we all need networks of the future: faster, more affordable networks that help open the future to promise and opportunity.
We’d like to thank all our sponsors for the INCOMPAS Policy Summit:
Platinum: Google Fiber, Granite
Gold: Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, TeleQuality
Silver: FirstLight Fiber, Bandwidth, Quicken Loans, Fuse Cloud, Hogan Lovells
Bronze: Televergence Solutions, Windstream, Crown Castle Fiber, Spirit Communications, Kelley Drye, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Morgan Lewis, Goldberg Godles Wiener & Wright LLP
General: Fatbeam, TelNet Worldwide, Unite Private Networks