Chairman Calls for 'Unleashing Global Opportunities' in Brussels Speech
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery"The Cloud: Unleashing Global Opportunities"
Aspen IDEA Project
March 24, 2011It is a pleasure to be here with all of you -- my colleagues in the American government,
our counterparts from the E.U. and Canada, and this excellent group from the private
sector and civil society.
Thank you to the Aspen Institute, to my distinguished predecessor Ambassador Bill
Kennard for hosting this event and for driving international cooperation, and to another
distinguished predecessor, Reed Hundt, for his vision and leadership.
We're here this morning because of our shared commitment to promoting and protecting
the global free flow of information.
As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed out in her speech last year on Internet
freedom, "In many respects, information has never been so free."
Or so fast. The time it takes to send a message across the Atlantic has fallen from two
weeks in the early 19th century to less than two-tenths of a second in the early 21st.
This revolution in the fast and free flow of information is having a profound effect on
world history, as we see in the Middle East and North Africa. And I believe a positive
effect -- as people around the world are empowered with information, the ability to
connect, and the opportunity to have a voice in their own governance.
But it will no doubt take vigilance to preserve this freedom.
And while there remains uncertainty regarding what the weeks and months ahead will
hold for the Middle East and North Africa, there's at least one thing we can be sure of:
When autocracies want to shut down a common communications medium in order to
preserve their power, then that common medium is important; and so it is very important
that we debate and agree upon principles for ensuring it remains free and open.
That is one important reason we're here today.
But not the only one. We're here not only because free flows of information promote
democracy and human rights. We're also here because free flows of information promote
economic growth and prosperity.
When the government shut down the Internet and mobile service in Egypt on January 27,
many people asked: How were they able to do that, and what does it mean that they could
Fewer people asked another important question: How did Egypt come to have an Internet
and mobile service worth shutting down in the first place?
The answer is that a decade ago some in Egypt saw the economic benefits of deploying
open communications networks allowing information exchange. That followed a global
embrace of basic principles supporting the opening of communications markets, basic
principles which developed in meetings like this one involving some of the same
leaders and thinkers here today -- and which were ultimately codified in the 1997 World
Trade Organization Agreement on Basic Telecommunications.
Since then, economic history has shown that free flows of information and data can
enable unprecedented economic opportunity productivity gains, contributions to GDP,
and job creation.
And as Minister Bildt pointed out this morning, healthy, job-creating economies will be
key to the long-term success of Internet-facilitated freedom movements in developing
The advent of cloud computing, with its ability to enable collaboration in ways no other
technology has before, can multiply the benefits of a free and open Internet.
Consider that in the United States, the number of ads for full-time IT jobs focused on
cloud computing grew more than 300 percent last year.
And the benefits of cloud computing and a widely available Internet extend as well to
health care, education, and energy improving quality of life, while also generating new
markets and new businesses in each of those categories.
This can be true all over the world. Cloud computing is already a $68 billion global
industry, and worldwide cloud adoption is expanding at roughly 17 percent per year,
according to Gartner. European companies like Flexiant and Mvine in the U.K. and
GreenQloud in Iceland are offering innovative cloud computing solutions.
The opportunities and benefits of cloud computing are not limited by geography.
Nor are the challenges to unleashing its opportunities.
Information is a form of capital. As barriers to accessing funding prevent entrepreneurs,
wherever they are, from starting the next great cloud computing company, barriers to
accessing information prevent innovators, wherever they are, from growing cloud
computing companies, improving productivity, growing GDP, and creating new
industries, jobs, and opportunity.
How do we begin to address these barriers? One way is to identify the inputs that make
communications networks with freely flowing information possible.
As a start, I'd point to five key inputs:
Robust backbone and middle-mile networks that can handle heavy data backhaul
Last-mile broadband--wired or wireless--that reaches every citizen;
Spectrum for mobile broadband, so people can access the cloud wherever they
Interconnection among networks; and
Public policies that don't inhibit--and indeed facilitate--data flows across
Unfortunately, we face common challenges worldwide in the provision of each of those
First, we have a global broadband availability gap. In the U.S., about 20 million
Americans live in areas where they simply can't access broadband. Virtually every
country has deployment challenges, and in many countries the challenges are dramatic.
These challenges extend to both last-mile and middle-mile networks.
And somewhat ironically, although wireless presents new solutions for last-mile
connectivity, it exacerbates middle-mile challenges, as much more fiber backhaul will be
needed to accommodate growing mobile traffic.
Second, we have a global broadband adoption gap. About one-third of Americans don't
subscribe to broadband today, either because they can't afford it, they lack the skills to
use it effectively, or they don't see its relevance. In some other developed countries, the
comparable figure is over two-thirds. The E.U.'s Digital Agenda focuses on these and
related challenges, as we in the U.S. have done with the FCC's National Broadband Plan.
Third, we face a looming global spectrum crunch. In the U.S., multiple experts expect
that by 2014, demand for mobile broadband and the spectrum to fuel it will be 35 times
greater than last year. Globally, Cisco has projected a nearly 60-fold increase in demand
for spectrum between 2009 and 2015.
Without more spectrum for mobile broadband, the "cloud" will remain stubbornly stuck
over the world's homes and businesses, leaving consumers unable to tap its full potential
when they are away from their wireline connections, if they have them.
Fourth, we face a privacy and security gap issues on which there is now focus on both
sides of the Atlantic. Trust has always been necessary for commerce, and that's no less
true for e-commerce and cloud computing. Adoption of broadband and the cloud by
both consumers and businesses -- will be inhibited to the extent there is a lack of trust;
it's reasonable to expect that consumers and businesses will require a high level of
confidence before they place sensitive financial or medical information in the cloud. And
it is an unfortunate fact that the information economy enhances both the motive and the
means for thieves to steal identities and intellectual property.
The good news is that the information economy also creates real incentives for cloud
services providers to provide security and ensure privacy. And our collective challenge is
to ensure that the ability and incentives to protect information outweigh the ability and
incentives to pilfer it.
And fifth, we face a regulatory gap the gap between inconsistent laws and policies in
different countries, as well as legal uncertainty, preventing cloud computing from scaling
up and driving down costs for consumers and businesses.
Of course, there will be some circumstances in which policies differ for good reason
across geographic boundaries.
But the principles I believe we agree upon are more significant, and numerous, than the
issues on which our perspectives may differ. Consider, to offer just one example, the
OECD's declaration in its Innovation Strategy published last year that "Governments
should promote information and communication technologies . . . as general-purpose
platforms for innovation and knowledge sharing by upholding the open, free,
decentralised and dynamic nature of the Internet."
We can unlock tremendous economic and social value by uniting around core principles
to protect and encourage free flows of information and data.
I believe there's also broad agreement on this: The private sector, which owns and
operates the vast majority of our global Internet infrastructure, will be indispensable to
addressing many of these gaps and challenges, as well as investing massive sums to
deliver robust networks. There's also an important but limited role for government to
play in facilitating global information flows, including by cooperating on baseline
policies and reducing barriers to the full deployment of cloud computing.
In the U.S., we are focused on a series of actions to tackle these challenges.
President Obama has provided important leadership embracing broadband as key to
innovation and economic growth, and setting ambitious goals for 4G wireless
Last year, as many of you know, the FCC released our National Broadband Plan -- a
comprehensive, data-driven strategy to maximize broadband deployment, adoption, and
use, and unleash the benefits of high-speed Internet.
The Plan also includes initiatives to tackle key national challenges like promoting e-
health, fostering broadband-enabled educational technologies, developing a nationwide
Smart Grid, and encouraging e-government.
And it focuses attention on the importance of incorporating broadband into public safety
communications. We've seen in Japan, Haiti and elsewhere how modern
communications networks can save lives and speed relief.
Since the Plan's release last year, we have actively been putting its recommendations into
action. We have, for example, worked with our Congress to lay the groundwork for an
innovative policy proposal voluntary incentive auctions for spectrum.
I've been asked about this by several of you, as mobile congestion becomes a more and
more common concern. So let me spend a quick minute on it.
Under our proposal, Congress would give the FCC the authority to run two-sided
We would auction spectrum for flexible wireless broadband services, and the spectrum in
the auction would be voluntarily contributed by current licensees like TV broadcasters or
mobile satellite operators, who would in return receive a portion of the proceeds of the
These auctions provide an incentive-based, market-driven path to move spectrum to its
highest-valued use, bringing market forces to bear on spectrum licenses that have been
shielded from competitive dynamics for decades. As spectrum congestion becomes a
larger issue worldwide, we anticipate that incentive auctions can become a key element
of policymakers' toolkits in many countries.
We have also released the largest amount of spectrum devoted to unlicensed use in 25
years. We expect this to lead to services like "super WiFi" and to spur experimentation
with new, innovative technologies and services.
We are modernizing our universal service programs to shift from supporting the essential
technology of the 20th century telephone service to the essential technology of the 21st
century broadband that can deliver voice, video and data. Two of these universal
service programs are particularly important for enabling cloud-based health and
education services: our E-Rate program, which supports connectivity for schools and
libraries; and our health care connectivity program, which does the same for rural
hospitals and health care clinics.
We are working to overcome barriers to broadband adoption, pursuing multiple initiatives
targeted at both consumers and small businesses.
And we are working to reduce barriers to broadband deployment like lengthy waits for
tower siting approvals. We set a shot-clock last year to accelerate this process. And in
two weeks the FCC will be voting on an order to facilitate better access to utility poles.
Consistent with the Plan, we continue to promote the use of cloud-based computing in
government; in fact, in November, the U.S. administration instituted a "cloud first" policy
for information technology contracts, which could allow federal agencies to cut their IT
per-unit costs in half.
And we've adopted basic rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness, a
key element of promoting and protecting the cloud and global information flows.
The rules are simple, fit on less than a page, and preserve free markets and free
expression online, by ensuring:
The freedom of consumers to go where they want, use the services they want,
and read and say what they want online; and
The freedom of innovators, including broadband providers and entrepreneurs, to
launch new products, reach new markets, and continue driving the innovation
Our framework recognizes the need for return on investment, including by allowing
usage-based pricing, explicitly accepting the legitimacy of reasonable network
management, and recognizing differences between fixed and mobile services.
This framework does not regulate the Internet, but rather preserves the Internet's freedom
and openness by ensuring that no central authority, public or private, can act as a
gatekeeper to the Internet.
It is consistent with the U.S.'s long-standing light-touch approach to Internet policy,
which has always included basic protections for network openness at the national level
while emphasizing the importance of voluntary, multi-stakeholder, technical institutions.
These have been some of our steps so far to meet the challenges we face in common. We
know the E.U. has been active in tackling these same challenges.
I applaud the development of the E.U. Digital Agenda.
As I said earlier, in a number of respects, our broad policy frameworks and histories
differ, so it's no surprise that some policy specifics differ.
What are more important are the common values the E.U. and U.S. share in our
approaches to Internet freedom and the benefits we can reap by promoting the adoption
of principles that embody those values around the world.
Because our efforts in the U.S. and Europe will be necessarily incomplete unless we can
embrace a new transatlantic dialogue, and craft the principles with which to tackle our
challenges at a global level.
That's how the 1997 WTO agreement gave investors and entrepreneurs the regulatory
stability needed to unleash a global telecom revolution. I believe that's how we'll help
the Internet and cloud computing become the next great global telecom breakthrough.
And that's why the work of the IDEA project bringing together policymakers from
multiple countries, private companies, and civil society is so important.
In that spirit, let me pose one overarching question that may help guide the discussion
today, and some specific questions. The umbrella question: How can governments
increase regulatory predictability related to the cloud?
Agreement on three types of policy principles can help us achieve that goal:
Principles for avoiding unduly restrictive and protectionist policies that limit
market entry, directly or indirectly;
Principles for harmonizing international spectrum and communications device
approval policies; and
Principles for promoting trust on the Internet.
First, avoiding restrictive, protectionist policies. To what degree do rigid, in-country data
center requirements undercut the efficiency and cost savings offered by cloud
computing? What international norms should exist with regard to the placement of data
centers? How can governments ensure that data can flow more freely across state
Second, policy harmonization. How can we best promote harmonization of spectrum for
mobile broadband? How can and should spectrum harmonization lead to harmonized
rules for wireless access to the cloud? What can policymakers do to expedite the approval
of communications devices that are increasingly essential to data flows?
And third, promoting trust. How can policymakers ensure that consumers are empowered
to control their personal information and protect their privacy? How can we foster
private agreements to combat piracy while preserving Internet openness?
The IDEA Project is an excellent vehicle to explore these questions, which I also look
forward to addressing in other bilateral and multilateral forums.
A goal that I believe will benefit all of our countries: To develop over the next several
months, as a group of policymakers with participation from firms and NGOs, a common
paradigm that enables good governance and prudent restraint from unnecessary
One hundred fifty years ago, most people relied on power they produced themselves to
run their farms and small businesses. But widespread electrification, combined with
common practices for energy transmission and distribution, allowed companies to bear
the burden of producing power instead, generating economic growth and lifting millions
out of poverty.
A thriving global cloud computing industry, built on ubiquitous broadband, can be as
beneficial for economic growth in the 21st century as electricity was in the 20th.
I strongly believe we're at a crossroads when it comes to the future of the internet.
Down one path is a free, open and common global medium, generating ongoing
innovation and massive economic and social benefits worldwide.
Down another is a balkanized Internet that stunts innovation and slows economic growth.
Inaction and misguided action will give us the latter, not the former.
But it's not an understatement to say that wise action on the part of this group and others
can help deliver a bright future for billions of people around the world.
I'm glad to be here, and I look forward to participating actively in this effort.
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