With the New US CTO, Why Not a New OCA: Office of Connectivity Advocacy

By Bob Frankston
Bob Frankston

We need a positive strategy for assuring connectivity.

Instead of trying to fix telecom we should be working to take advantage of what we have and build vital, even if mundane applications like telemedicine and broaden our access to information while empowering communities. By realizing the value in our existing infrastructure and encouraging the creativity we can provide immediate benefits to our economy and our safety.

We need a "Connectivity Strategy" with a champion; a "Connectivity Advocate" who is outside the FCC and can thus focus on a positive agenda. "Internet Connectivity" is not a telecommunications service but something new. It is based on the idea that we can create our own solutions out of imperfect resources. And it has proven to be an exceptionally powerful idea.

It has allowed us to create new solutions by focusing on the end points of relationships rather than all the myriad points in-between. We've seen a similar dynamic with the interstate (defense) highway system that has been credited with adding trillions of dollars to the economy. The Internet-connectivity has the potential to do far more because it doesn't have the limits of the roads and demand creates supply.

The challenge is to overcome the artifacts that we confuse with the powerful idea. We happened to have repurposed existing telecommunications infrastructure and thus the idea has become captive of the incumbents whose business of charging for transporting bits as a service is threatened. To add to this confusion we can easily spoof existing telecommunications services ourselves but still act as if only a carrier can provide the services.

Instead of spending so much time and effort forcing connectivity into a service framing we need to be able to focus on connectivity from first principles. After all, the Internet (as connectivity) and Telecom have no intrinsic relationship beyond their common use of electromagnetism to transport bits.

By having an Office of Connectivity Advocacy (I'm open to a better title) outside the FCC we can have a positive and proactive strategy. We have abundant existing resources that are lying fallow either because we don't recognize what we have or are forbidden from competing with those who control our very means of communicating and the vital information paths we use for commerce.

For now, I'll leave open the question of where the OCA fits — perhaps reporting to the new CTO but I hope it evolves with our understanding.

Initially the OCA would be charged with:

At first glance the idea of the OCA may seem fanciful but it's far easier to start afresh than trying to struggle out of the mire of the existing Regulatorium. We didn't build the automobile by modifying stage coaches — we just used our understanding of wheeled vehicles to start afresh.

In fact the OCA approach should be compelling:

This is a win-win-win — Society (and our economy) benefit, the existing telecom works get new opportunities and it's doable now.

By Bob Frankston, Independent Internet Professional. Bob has been online and using/building computer networks since 1966. He is the co-creator of the VisiCalc spreadsheet program and the co-founder of Software Arts, the company that developed it, and is a fellow of the IEEE, ACM and the Computer History Museum.

Related topics: Access Providers, Broadband, Net Neutrality, Policy & Regulation, Telecom

Comments