Remarks before Internet2 Spring Member Meeting
Prepared Remarks of Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn
Internet2 Spring Member Meeting
April 20, 2011Thank you, Dave, for that kind introduction and for the invitation to speak here today at
the Spring Member Meeting. I am even more appreciative in that it is actually beginning to feel
I am delighted to address this audience because the Internet2 community has played such
an important role in promoting three policy initiatives that are particularly important to me
accessibility, affordability, and adoption. By accessibility, I mean giving people living with
disabilities greater access to the most advanced communications services. But, I also mean
bringing advanced communications services to communities that are unserved or underserved. In
my view, these three terms accessibility, affordability, and adoption are interrelated. In other
words, if we create incentives for more service providers to deploy networks in underserved
areas, this should lead to competition, which should make services more affordable. More
affordable services, in turn, encourage more consumers to adopt advanced communications
services such as broadband.
As many of you know, South Carolina is home for me and is a state with a number of
very rural communities. I personally understand the significant need for the successful
implementation of all three of these initiatives. Consumers, especially low income consumers,
must be able to access the benefits provided by broadband Internet service. Each year, there is an
increase in the number of both public and private organizations that are relying exclusively on the
Internet to both notify the public about job openings and to accept and consider applications.
Universities are also forgoing paper-based application systems. Healthcare systems across the
country are quickly beginning to transition into the digital world.
The lesson from these trends is clear. Without access to affordable IP-based broadband
service, the most challenged communities will fail to enjoy the significant opportunities that
broadband service access has offer.
During my time at the Commission, I have seen how projects to wire anchor institutions
can not only bring the benefits of broadband service to low income communities, but also
stimulate economic growth in those communities. I have learned of several major research
programs, including the Case Western Reserve University project, which recently provided 1
Gigabit per second access to low income communities in Cleveland, Ohio. I am also aware of the
Rutgers University GENI project, a program that fosters web infrastructure research on both
wired and wireless networks. These community-connect projects are proven vehicles for job
creation in low income communities. Therefore, we should promote as many of these projects as
Internet2 has shown great leadership on these policy initiatives because of its tremendous
contribution to the deployment and improvement of broadband services for thousands of
communities nationwide. Over the past 15 years, the Research and Education, or R and E
networking model, has been extended to cover over 66,000 anchor sites, and a great number of
these organizations represent those most vital to our society. Whether connecting to a state's
health network, such as Health Sciences South Carolina, an 8th grade middle school classroom, or
a Smithsonian Museum here in DC, Internet2 has consistently been able to deliver user
connectivity through some of our most fundamental institutions. Through the diligent efforts of
the Internet2 community and its partners, these entities can provide their important services to
more citizens around the country.
Internet2 deserves great credit for working so diligently to connect so many anchor
institutions to R&E networks. But I also want to commend the Internet2 community and its
partners, for the approach it has taken to the deployment of these networks. As the Internet2
Strategic Vision explains, one of the goals of this community is to serve "as an exemplary
membership organization with empowered leadership, financial transparency, and member
engagement, to achieve the membership's shared objectives."
This collaborative approach, serves the public interest in a number of ways. First, it
allows partners to learn from each other's experiences in broadband deployment, and to assist
each other in discovering how to work around challenges to deployment. This approach also
enables local communities to tailor R&E networks to fit their unique needs. Similar to a large
enterprise with respect to its own custom network, when community anchors use an R&E
network, the community anchor can dictate how the network is designed and operates. In fact,
the users can also be a part of the technical advisory committee for the network.
An approach that allows for the development of best practices while at the same time
tailoring those best practices to the unique needs of a local community is, in my opinion, one of
the best ways to combat barriers to deployment and ensure adoption.
The high capacity framework of R&E networks, allows them to operate in an
uncongested manner, with plenty of headroom for applications with heavy bandwidth demands.
This gives researchers the freedom to create innovative applications for video conferencing,
certain telemedicine applications, and distance learning. By contrast, several commercial
networks operate for financial reasons, at or near capacity. This limits the ability of advanced
applications to get through the network unimpeded.
Since the Internet2 community develops these R&E networks through shared
governance, it leads to greater transparency than that offered by many commercial providers. If
something goes wrong, the users of Internet2's networks will know why. With many commercial
carriers, this is less likely because their networks are proprietary and operational information
doesn't flow as freely among providers.
Internet2 does not simply promote accessibility of broadband services by doing
everything it can to connect anchor institutions to these ultrafast R&E networks. It also plays a
very important role in developing new Internet technologies with regard to Identity Management
middleware, security, network research, and performance measurement capabilities. Most
consumers may not know how important these behind-the-scenes developments are. But these
new technologies are not just important to updating the R&E networks that the Internet2 and
anchor institutions use. They are also critical to the progress of the Internet at large.
Last, but certainly not least, the Internet2 approach promotes the development of an Open
Internet. On this policy initiative, Internet2 is a vital partner for those, who like me, strongly
advocate for an Open Internet. You are a valuable asset in this policy debate because, for almost
15 years, your non-profit organization has endeavored to find the best way to deploy advanced
broadband networks to millions of users. Your engineers began with the assumption that they
should prioritize certain kinds of bits, such as streaming video, in order to assure that they arrive
without delay. They experimented with various "quality of service" schemes. Their practical
experience showed that, once a service provider made the initial investment to deploy fiber and
adequately provisioned their networks, it was often more cost effective to simply provide more
bandwidth to end users, than to employ complex engineering schemes that would give
preferential treatment to certain packets of information.
Internet2 also understands that not discriminating among packets gives the end user the
power to use protocols to innovate at the edge. This was vital to the development of some of the
most important innovations on the Internet. The World Wide Web, the Web browser, the search
engine, and instant messaging, were all developed by end users of the network. If we want an
Internet experience that promotes more of these innovative technologies, and allows as many
people as possible to enjoy these technologies, then we need Internet2's help to keep the Internet
For these reasons, I view Internet2 as an essential organization to broadband efforts that
consistently further the goals set forth in the National Broadband Plan. But, while these
substantial efforts from Internet2 have helped our country make significant strides in the
deployment of broadband networks to thousands of communities, as most of you know, there is
still more to do.
Last year, the National Broadband Plan estimated that 14 to 24 million Americans still
live in areas with no broadband infrastructure. Another key finding is that affordability is the
most important reason why Americans do not subscribe to broadband service at home. Those
who find it unaffordable to have broadband at home, depend quite heavily on access to broadband
service at libraries, schools, and other community anchor institutions. Without fully
understanding our broadband needs, and building out sophisticated networks into the general
community, we run the risk of leaving our most underserved citizens out in the cold.
Internet2 understands there is still a vital role for it to play here. In fact, it applied for,
and was awarded a $62 million plus grant from NTIA's BTOP program to develop a
comprehensive 50-state network benefitting approximately 121,000 community anchors. This is
a large-scale, public-private partnership, with a dedicated fiber backbone that can deliver speeds
up to 200 Giga bits per second. This project can improve health care options by linking facilities
nationwide with greater capacity.
It can unify the Indian Health Care Networks, link Veterans Affairs Centers, and connect
projects funded by the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Health Care Pilot Program.
This network can also advance public safety by linking 6,183 Public Safety Answering Points and
facilitating the development of a Next Generation 9-1-1 system.
While we need the efforts of you all, the Commission is committed to instituting
improvements in infrastructure and development to decrease cost barriers. We have made
considerable progress on the E-rate program, which has brought about significant success for
community institutions, granting broadband access to 97% of schools nationwide and basic
internet access to most of our public libraries. The Commission's 2010 E-rate decision, enabled
schools and libraries to better serve students, teachers, librarians, and their communities, by
providing more flexibility to select and make available the most cost-effective broadband and
other communications services. Specifically, the schools can now lease fiber, whether lit or dark,
from any entity, including research and education networks.
Pending before the Commission, are a number of other proceedings that impact the
development of R and E networks. For instance, in the Connect America Fund or CAF
proceeding, the Commission is considering whether efforts to connect anchor institutions should
be supported by the CAF, E-rate, or rural health care programs. That proceeding is also
considering whether recipients of CAF should be required to engage in facilities-sharing
arrangements with other providers. Internet2's input in this, and other proceedings, will ensure
that our Nation is able to take advantage of all the benefits that R and E networks can offer.
I was excited to see Internet2 file comments in the proceedings the FCC opened late last
year, to transition our legacy 9-1-1 networks to Next Generation 9-1-1 networks. One of the
primary challenges to this transition is funding. As Internet2's comments explain, the
Commission should explore every opportunity to leverage these R and E networks and help the
public safety community meet the challenges they face in transitioning to NG9-1-1.
The bold initiatives that the FCC set forth in the National Broadband Plan will require
significant collaborative efforts from our agency and from each and every one of Internet2's
members and partners to have the impact we want for our Nation. I am committed to working as
diligently as I can, along with you, to ensure that these services can become a reality. I firmly
believe that through this partnership, we can push the limits of network capabilities, and connect
those who need it the most.
I would like to once again thank Internet2 for inviting me to speak, and all of you for
sharing in my hopes for the future. The FCC will truly depend upon each of your institutions, to
improve broadband capabilities, and to assist in closing the digital divide. I must emphasize that
your talent, resources and insight will be invaluable to this effort. Together we can accomplish
the goal of granting all citizens across the country access to the most advanced broadband
services we have to offer.
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