Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Broadband: Necessary but Not Nearly Sufficient

David K. Aylward

Today a wonderful cross section of folks who care about communications will come together to announce a National Broadband Strategy Call to Action. It is a terrific and important undertaking. Indeed, since at least the summer of 2001, COMCARE has actively advocated ensuring for all emergency organizations what we had earlier done for the schools: connecting them all to broadband. We must start with "everything over IP." So we strongly support this initiative led by our friends at the New America Foundation and others.

The paper that will be handed out today references the benefits of broadband to public safety and health care, among a list of other areas. In much more detail, Bob Litan did a presentation last month on the health care benefits that are possible if we can get medicine into the digital information sharing age. His focus as well was on the need to deploy broadband. Throughout 2008, the FCC has worked to try to figure out how to get wireless broadband to safety agencies. Certainly organizations cannot begin to take advantage of the increasingly rich information environment in which they sit without it, much less share that information with other entities and any staff in the field.

It is also true that broadband is necessary but not nearly sufficient. Hooking up 6500 9-1-1 centers and 30,000 EMS and fire agencies to broadband does very little on its own. Almost every hospital has broadband today, but information sharing with other parties is minimal.

Unlike individuals, to get the benefits of electronic information sharing in the broad, diverse and highly balkanized safety area, we need an equal (if not greater) focus on the application layer, on software and related issues. Earlier this fall I spent some time ruminating on why it is that in our policy debates (and indeed our policies) there is an almost singular focus on communications and broadband (the transport layer), and little to none on the information technology, the software.

Those thoughts are in my September posting which I have updated a bit. This seemed like a good time to underline those thoughts again.

1 comment:

Bob said...


You have laid out an impressive blueprint for resolving many key issues. I especially appreciated your footnotes.

But one additional aspect may be important for you to factor into this roadmap: buildings and facilities in geospatial contexts.
The Building Service Performance Forum and the Integrated Response Systems Consortium have been involved with these issues. We now have demonstrations available for several key elements.

Perhaps a conference call might be useful?