CES 2018-2: The Buffet is Now Open

By Joshua Seidemann on January 09, 2018

CES is spread across several venues in Las Vegas. Deciding what to see and which conference sessions to attend demands a certain level of logistical choreography. Not that I am much of a dancer - it is more an exercise in bundling conference sessions at a common venue and then spending the time between seminars visiting the show floor at that venue. Although dedicated shuttles run between the sites, moving from one hotel to another can consume an hour, so prudence advises dedicating at least a half-day to each venue at a time.

Everything old is new again...

The CES program rivals some small phone books for size. The app makes arranging personal schedules much easier, but, even then, the choices are as bewildering as an all-you-can buffet. I opened my app on the plane this morning and saw that despite my sifting and sorting, I still had conflicts on my schedule: Digital Therapeutics or Connected Smart Cities? FCC and FTC Roundtable or the Invisible Doctor? And that's just for today at one venue . . .

CES always makes the national news, perhaps because consumer technology bears dual credentials: it is exciting, and it is a market force. Of course, the same can be said of last night's Clemson/Georgia game. But, unlike college football (and, I know I am going out on a limb here in some quarters), consumer technology touches everyone. You might not be in the market for a roll-up OLED TV, but chances are that you might be looking at a connected thermostat or DIY home security system. Connected athletic gear, whether clothing or equipment, may be geared toward more serious athletes, but telemedicine developments promise benefits across the spectrum of patients (and, the value proposition only increases in rural areas where increased instances of certain chronic illnesses run up against a physician shortage and distance from medical facilities . . . more on this later).

This year's program coincides with other telecom announcements. Yesterday, the president announced two initiatives aimed at improving rural broadband infrastructure. And, the FCC (which, by definition, always has telecom on its plate) is at the beginning of a proceeding that will investigate potential changes to the Rural Health Care program in the Universal Service Fund.

Last week, I proposed to an industry colleague that we have reached an inflection point where the debate about rural broadband is no longer about its necessity than it is about the best way to "get it out there." My colleague, who works with a Federal agency, disagreed. She explained that she still finds that there are pockets throughout the nation where community leaders need to be sold on the value proposition of broadband. These are, of course, areas in which the service is not yet deployed. And, yet, this demonstrates that the benefits we often perceive as having universal attraction are not yet adopted by the masses everywhere.

Many reports from CES will focus on AI and Google's heavy footprints. I'll be keeping an eye out for conversations and developments that can help drive meaningful change for rural areas. And, I'll share those here. Stay tuned.

Josh Seidemann is vice president of policy for NTCA. He can be reached at jseidemann@ntca.org.