Movement is a common thread to much of the infrastructure that enables modern society. Whether it is the movement of bits or electrons, liquids or gases, or parcels or people, infrastructure facilitates commerce and improves the quality of life by allowing people to enjoy things that physical barriers or distance would otherwise prevent.
The cost of infrastructure represents friction to economic output. The cost has to be measured on a lifecycle basis and includes factors such as accessibility, negative externalities (e.g. pollution, spam, congestion), redundancy, and resiliency. In this issue of the Viodi View, we will hear from a few perspectives outside the traditional broadband industry about infrastructure and unique ways to fund long-term investments in the future.
One of the advantages that broadband has over other last-mile infrastructures, like water systems and electricity, is competition. As services have moved to IP, there has been the rise of multiple networks, creating last-mile redundancy and resiliency that wouldn’t be there with a monopoly provider. Dr. Stanley Young of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory put it best in his comments that the energy sector can learn from the broadband industry,
“I almost think of it as 20 years ago when our telecoms were highly monolithic from a few sources and now, 20 years later, somehow, we connect to the Internet and everybody does it slightly differently through some system or wireline, or fiber-optic or 5G, or 4G or 3G.”
Young joined other experts on a Smart Driving Car Summit discussing the nuances of the best ways to power the vehicles of tomorrow. One of the takeaways is that the challenge of reducing pollutants is multi-faceted and that there is no silver bullet solution.
Are the milk delivery wagons of 100-years ago and Trailers on Flat Cars (TOFC) good proxies for the future of automation in the transportation of goods? That is, will automation promise safety and efficiency gains that make up for the costs? What will it mean for the number and types of jobs in the trucking industry? These questions and more were explored in the thirteenth session of the Smart Driving Car Summit, Improving the Moving of Goods.
It is important to distinguish between those features that enhance safety versus those that provide safety and convenience is how Princeton’s Dr. Alain Kornhauser set the stage for the Smart Driving Car Summit session, Incentivizing Through Regulation. Regulations must ensure that the comfort features, such as Automatic Cruise Control (ACC), do not degrade safety. He also believes that consumers should not have to “read the fine print” to understand the Operational Design Domain (ODD) limitations of a given feature.
It is in the insurance industry’s best interest to use automated driving technology to make things safer through crash avoidance, not just crash mitigation. Unlike crash mitigation, crash avoidance saves the insurance company money. This was Alain Kornhauser’s premise for the Smart Driving Car Summit, Incentivizing Through Insurance. The trillion-dollar question is whether the incentives to automate will overcome the countervailing forces of existing business practices in other parts of the mobility industry?
It is clear that Neural Propulsion Systems is looking beyond the era of human driving, where up to 94% of crashes are caused by human misbehavior/error. The zero-accident future envisioned by NPS’s CEO Behrooz Rezvani is going to require reliability and redundancy. It is also going to require cost-effectiveness so that it can be deployed at scale. As an aside, it was a pleasure to catch up with Behrooz after so many years and to see our paths intersect once again around lasers (and more). In many ways, today’s autonomous vehicle world is similar to our time together in the early days of last-mile broadband and video on demand.
- RT @marcscribner “@ReasonFdn’s Bob Poole in @WSJ: ‘Don’t risk economic recovery by enacting large federal tax increases. Open the door to hundreds of billions in private capital from investors like public pension funds. That will help build infrastructure back better.’”
- “ACA Connects’ White House Letter to President Biden (w/ Other Organizations) re Adopting a Long-Term Federally-Funded Broadband Benefit Program”
- In addition to spectrum auctions, another potential funding source [for a Broadband Benefit Program] could be a MAC fee. In a nutshell, any device with the potential to connect to the Internet would be assessed a fee at the time of sale. #TBT to 2004 when that concept was introduced.
There is nothing more flattering than to have an article one has written referenced on social media in a positive way. It is even better when the person making the reference is smart, creative, and affable, like Asfi (Isfandiyar) Shaheen. Asfi is bringing his background in finance and working in the wireless tower business to find alternative ways to finance broadband to places that would otherwise be unserved or underserved.
His focus on grassroots solutions, finding ways to guarantee demand, and providing long-term financing promise to extend broadband to rural areas with reduced or without government subsidies. Creating a condominium approach to fiber deployment is one such approach to unlocking long-term financing.
This concept was first mentioned in a 2008 paper, Home with Tails, by Tim Wu. Wu is also the person who invented the term Net Neutrality. It was announced on March 5th that Wu was appointed Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy. It will be interesting to see if any of the concepts presented in his 2008 paper filter through to the infrastructure proposals being put forth by the Biden Administration.
In the meantime, watch this interview as Shaheen talks about networks based on individual ownership, constraints beyond technical and financial, and his work with Facebook as they bring robots into the fiber overlashing process.