Last Thursday afternoon I had the honor of chairing the first meeting of the FCC's new Technical Advisory Council, or TAC. The TAC exists under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which follows a proud tradition of providing the Federal Government with outside consultation, dating back to the George Washington Administration and the first President's Committee on the Whisky Rebellion. Thankfully our Council's challenge does not involve such physically dangerous circumstances! This is the 5th TAC that the FCC has convened and in this iteration, our Council has been charged with another specific, critical task: To help the Commission identify important areas of innovation and develop communications and technology policies that will drive job creation and economic growth.
Our TAC has been convened at a dynamic time at the FCC and for the communications and technology industries. When the first TAC was suggested in the 1990's, the FCC was an agency overseeing multiple analog networks. The digital world has changed that. IP has pushed activity to the edge and innovation has followed. The Census Bureau estimates that most of the net employment gains from 1980-2005 came from firms younger than 5 years old—and those firms looked more like the distributed networks that connected them than they did the centralized networks of old.
Amidst this change, the challenge for the TAC in its advisory role is to answer several questions.
- What are the innovations that are down the road that the Commission must anticipate now?
- What is the IP world delivering with unprecedented speed and how does the FCC encourage, not inhibit those developments to translate into investment and jobs?
- As the technology agency of the government, how can the FCC utilize its voice, especially in the short term, to bring these innovations to bear quickly in a variety of areas (health, energy, public safety, transportation, and others)?
At our first TAC meeting, we brought together a diverse group of some of the most talented technical minds in industry, academia, and the investment world to discuss these issues and to begin to structure our work around these questions. Several topics were discussed that may lead to more indepth work and investigation by the Council. These included:
- The transition to IPv6 technology
- Increased cross-agency coordination on new technology uses in various industries
- Privacy and security concerns and their effect on adoption of new technologies
- Easements and Rights-of-Way impact on the speed of broadband infrastructure deployment
- The importance of national testbeds and access to research facilities
- Technology competitions to foster innovation
- Retirement of legacy systems
- A technology corps, similar to Americorp but focused on technology initiatives
While the TAC will only meet in person quarterly, we plan to be very proactive in our work. TAC members will be organizing into working groups around the issues we discussed in our initial meeting. You will be hearing from some of our members here on the FCC Blog as guest bloggers as they share their ideas and progress. Committee meetings are open to the public, and we also welcome input from non-committee members via email to TAC [at] fcc [dot] gov. We hope you will follow our discussion and participate in the conversation.