November 29, 2012 - 12:00 am
By Mignon Clyburn | Commissioner

This October, I was fortunate to travel to Asia, where I spent over a week meeting with regulators, industry groups, and business leaders from around the world.  This was not my first time representing the FCC abroad, but this trip took me on a journey through more time zones than I remember.  On the first leg, after leaving Washington on long trans-Atlantic flight, I arrived in Dubai – only to continue on to Qatar – before finally arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city. 

In Sri Lanka I represented the United States at the 12th Global Symposium for Regulators.  Organized under the United Nations, the GSR provides a world-wide view on the telecommunications industry.  Meeting with other delegates I shared the United States’ perspective on regulation, the FCC’s role, and what is being done in our country to promote ICT development.  I noticed an important characteristic of the telecommunications industry – nations across the world are addressing many of the same issues and problems as one another.  As I continued to meet with representatives, I gained more knowledge from hearing the perspectives of other countries.  The symposium brought forth the obvious: the spread of technology has circumvented borders, crossed digital divides, and brought even the most remote nations to address common concerns at our international table.

In Sri Lanka I was also able to see remarkable examples of how technology is being used to transform the country, its economy, and its people.  As much publicity is made about high-end and high-cost technology break-throughs, I can’t understate the importance and significance of utilizing technology to benefit the underprivileged.  On one particular morning, I visited Sri Lanka’s Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind where I saw the impact of immerging technology on disadvantaged children.  Although the country once lacked the funding and resources to provide proper education to hearing-impaired children, schools in Sri Lanka are now beginning to take advantage of equipment and software that has become increasingly affordable as a result of the proliferation of advanced technology that is being spread around the globe. 

The developments I saw at the Ceylon School were paralleled by Sri Lanka’s opportunity for economic growth.  At a meeting of the Sri Lanka American Chamber of Commerce I heard about the proposals and changes that are being made to improve the environment for international business in the Asia-Pacific region.  International organizations conduct important work which ultimately results in greater access to technology and infrastructure that make places like the Ceylon School possible.

My journey continued from Sri Lanka to another nation that I had never traveled to before.  Having always heard about advances in Singapore’s technology and communications network, I was especially excited to have the chance to see the country firsthand.  What brought me to Singapore was an invitation by the International Institute of Communications to attend their annual International Regulators Forum.  It seemed appropriate that during my extended travels I was asked to speak on international connectivity in an IRF session titled: “Telecommunications in a world without borders.” 

I also met with companies that were deploying TV White Spaces devices in Singapore.  The country has one of the most promising environments for successful development of White Spaces, for two reasons.  It has a substantial amount of spectrum in its broadcast television bands for unlicensed TV White Spaces, and it also has one of the most efficient economies in the world.  Therefore, Singapore has tremendous potential to implement these successful broadband technologies.

After the IIC forum, a whirl-wind perspective of the country’s rapid developments in TV White Spaces, WiMAX, ultra-fast broadband, advanced 4G networks, and a productive visit with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, I was ready to return home. 

Connecting in Tokyo, I finally boarded my plane and sat down for the long trip ahead.  As I watched passengers pull out their phones and computers to connect to their offices, friends and family around the world, I thought of how small our world has become.  But, as we flew for hours across the Pacific Ocean I was reassured that our planet is not small – it’s enormous!  The size of our world is not shrinking, and there is nothing better than a painstakingly long international flight to appreciate how our ever-advancing telecommunication industry helps make us all feel as though we are closer to one another than ever before.