Smart Policies to Upgrade the Internet

The telecommunications industry is facing a major transformation. The latest frontier in digital infrastructure takes the form of video streams, VoIP, and high definition TV broadcasts. These new systems have broadened our horizons with respect to communications, entertainment, and commerce. What do these changes mean for people, businesses, and governments?

The Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) at Brookings hosted an event on May 2nd to discuss the future of video streaming and content delivery. Darrell West, Vice President of Governance Studies and Director of CTI, welcomed the guests and introduced the panelists- Derek Aberle, President of Qualcomm; John Donovan, Senior Executive Vice President, AT&T Technology and Network Operations; Jeremy Legg, Senior Vice President, Business Development and Multi-Platform Distribution, Turner Broadcasting System (TBS). The panelists were industry experts and discussed how the explosion of video streaming is changing how we consume content. The panel discussants also focused on findings and data from West’s newly released paper, “The Evolution of Video Streaming and Digital Content Delivery.”

Policy recommendations to support the IP Transition:

1. Government leaders need to speed up lengthy rulemaking procedures. Decision making drags on for months and months. Rapidly evolving sectors necessitate expedited decision making processes.

2. Regulators need to be open to new business models and applications with the potential to improve consumer communications and commerce. This is especially relevant in technology sectors due to the fast pace of change and ability of firms to produce valuable applications that improve convenience and functionality for consumers. Saddling innovators with detailed operational rules devised years ago is less helpful than ensuring that companies respect broad principles of diversity, inclusiveness, fairness, and competition.

3. During the IP Transition, a critical priority is to protect vulnerable populations. To ensure the IP Transition has a soft landing, the elderly, disabled, and those residing in rural areas must be provided the same or better service than they are currently receiving.

4. Increase the number of experiments to gauge the impact of these transitions, to assess costs and benefits. Using the information from these trials to enact data-driven regulation. Regulations can use data to match the needs and responsibilities of the public sector with the innovation capacity of the private sector.

5. With the insatiable demand for larger amounts and faster content delivery, we need to build a next generation digital infrastructure. Easing this transition and encouraging investment in wired and wireless networks should be top priorities for officials. To bring the benefits of this technology revolution to as many people as possible, this new infrastructure should support innovation in commerce, health care, education, transportation, and energy.

Barriers to Innovation:

1. Reskilling current workers for new technologies is critical for future success.  Current methods include partnering with local universities and using MOOCs to reskill workers for new technologies, but transforming a mathematics expert into a big data scientist is a difficult and timely process.

2. The telecommunications industry needs more spectrum. Spectrum is the lifeblood and there is an insatiable demand for more. There is also the problem of those holding onto outmoded networks. Migrating to updated networks will be immensely beneficial.

3. Adaptation is vital to the ever evolving telecom industry. During this time of great transition, some operations have become outdated and must be reinvented to survive. Some television networks have successfully transformed from a content creator to a content distributor.

4. There is tremendous competition to hire the qualified tech engineers. It is critical to put a framework in place that allows companies to hire the best and brightest, no matter where they are from. The STEM pipeline must be improved.

There is great potential in the future of video streaming and digital content delivery. In order for this transition to be positive, policy makers and industries must work together to protect their citizens and consumers. To learn more read Darrell West’s paper “The Evolution of Video Streaming and Digital Content Delivery”. Stay tuned to TechTank and join the conversation at #TechTank.