I kicked off another New Year by once again being the envy of my high tech gadget friends back home. For the third time in a row, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from January 10-12. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which is responsible for organizing the event, needs to bottle and sell their secret for hosting a successful event year after year.
My visit began on Tuesday afternoon accompanied by Peter Slen, host of the CSPAN program, The Communicators. During a tour of a few exhibits, what intrigued me most was how energy efficiency initiatives, though not much discussed in marketing CES, were becoming more prominent on the floor. This is particularly appropriate and significant because as these CES shows forecast the increase in demand for advanced electronics, naturally this would also lead to an increase in the demand for electrical and other energy sources. Peter and I also spoke about how these incredible innovations are opening up a host of options and opportunities for those with physical and cognitive challenges.
Afterwards, Julie Kearney, Brian Markwalter, and other members of the CEA staff were gracious enough to take me on a tour of some of the exhibitors that had developed mobile health services and applications. It seemed as if CEA devoted an entire floor in the South Hall to these new technologies. These exciting applications ranged from monitors that help those who are suffering from difficult chronic diseases to high tech treadmills and other gym apparatus for those who want to meet and exceed the work out challenges they set for themselves. It is clear that the communications, information management, and health care industries are collaborating and leveraging mobile technological advances to improve the lives of so many people.
Later that evening, I attended a One Economy hosted event to celebrate Connect to Compete and other broadband adoption initiatives that the Commission has led over the past year. Broadband adoption has been one of my key policy objectives since I arrived in Washington, and as Chairman Genachowski stated, this appeared to be the first event at CES to celebrate these types of efforts. One Economy is one of the preeminent organizations whose mission is to help economically challenged communities improve their outcomes by leveraging advanced communications services such as broadband. It began in 2000 with a few social entrepreneurs who understood that having access to technology and online information could remove obstacles to opportunity and serve as the conduits for individuals who seek to realize their fullest potential. The following year, One Economy launched its Digital Communities initiative in Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon. Today, One Economy has a global mission and is now improving lives on four continents. It was great to reconnect with Rey Ramsey, the Chairman of One Economy’s Board, who is such an inspiring speaker.
One Economy has also shown us how public-private partnerships can effectively solve some of the most difficult problems facing low income communities. Therefore, it was fitting for them to further celebrate the FCC’s launch of Connect to Compete. Through Connect to Compete, the FCC is partnering with well known industry leaders such as Microsoft, Best Buy, and Discovery Channel, to deliver hardware, software and digital literacy training to communities and persons regardless of their income or academic proficiency.
The next day, I participated in a panel discussion with my friend and colleague, Commissioner Robert McDowell. Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post moderated the discussion and as usual, she kept the conversation lively. Cecilia asked a number of intriguing questions about the hot topics of the day: the FCC’s need for congressional authority to conduct voluntary incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum, the level of competition in the mobile wireless services industry, and one of my favorites – the necessity for Open Internet rules.