I travel through Washington, DC, each day on my way to work, but I rarely have much opportunity to walk the well-known parts of the city. With no offense to the FCC, its offices, just across the street from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are not high on the list of tourist sites. By contrast, Capitol Hill, close to historic Union Station, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and various Congressional office buildings, is a far better attraction, even in 95+degree heat.
This week, I went to the Hill twice, both times to see NTCA members appear on panels. On Tuesday, Maggie Basgall of Nex-Tech (Lenora, Kan.) discussed the value of telemedicine and the need for rural network infrastructure to support it. Ms. Basgall referred to USF and other Federal programs as critical inputs to ensuring not only broadband but all of the benefits that it enables. Ms. Basgall appeared with representatives from the telehealth industry and Microsoft.
And, yesterday, Scott McCloud of Bluegrass Celluar (Bowling Green, Ken.) appeared on a panel hosted by the Congressional Spectrum Caucus. The panel included representatives from Verizon, Qualcomm and Cisco. Like the telehealth gathering the day before, this event attracted a standing-room only crowd.
It is easy to fall into a mode of assuming that everyone is familiar with the basic constructs of telecom. Even as we have engineering or accounting discussions with FCC staff from time-to-time, the conversations suppose (correctly) a working knowledge of those issues. In contrast, the panels I attended this week reminded me (as they educated me) that many of the threshold issues may well be "cases of first impression" for staff. So, while we recognize the challenge of placing hundreds of small cells in Kentucky to support 5G, it is helpful for Hill and FCC staff to learn more about what that means for a provider that will probably need to navigate rights of way, or historic preservation, or railroad rights of way, or environmental concerns - either all or a combination of those issues. And that's before we even approach spectrum or facilities costs.
And, these issues are explained well in terms that are familiar. Cisco predcicts data needs of 6.1 exabytes per month in 2021? Sorry, I'm lost. Translate that to 1.5 billion DVDS and I'm still lost, but at least I have a reference point. Spectral efficiency, "hops," mobile offloading, spectrum aggregation were all on the table yesterday. And, fortunately, so was fiber. Verizon, known for its interest in advanced wireless networks, affirmed "it will be important to have a lot of fiber in the network," and called on Congess to faciliiate policies that will encourage fiber deployment.
So, the past couple of days were good days to visit the Hill. Hot, yes, but reassuring to see rural reps state the case for broadband.