This week is completely an opinion piece. I try to be very clear about when I am writing opinion, reporting news and trying to connect trends. Net Neutrality is an issue that requires thoughtfulness. The reason I write about it is that one of the very first links to my blog was from a Telecom Advocacy website. I looked at the article that refered to my post and it was wrong. Not the opinion, but the facts. Every single assertion was technically incorrect. My conclusion was that I owed my expertise to the community to provide a place where consumers could come read information from someone that didn’t have an agenda. I have opinions, but I am rooting for the consumer. That is my interest.
But 14 years ago today, I was driving to San Francisco International Airport to go to an Advanced Fibre Communications (AFC) User Conference. And then I wasn’t. There are parts of the events that day and the aftermath that make up the core of today’s posting. But at that time, I recall how much helplessness and confusion I felt. I didn’t know what was happening and what would happen next. I had no control over what was going to happen for the next period of my life and that sense of vulnerability is something I can still touch.
Well, that relates very well to our Broadband consumers. They are often frustrated by their options and have a complete lack of clarity on what they are actually buying. Most folks are not Telecom, Cable, or Internet experts. They don’t know ARP from DNS. But Communcations Services were big then and even now a bigger portion of their everyday lives. It is incumbent upon us as stewards of the industry to remember that we have a duty to the public to provide quality services at reasonable prices. That is true for Carriers, Equipment Vendors, Regulators and Consumers. We may disagree on many things but our mission should remain the same.
One of the things I loved about AFC was that many times we provided products that brought phone service to remote locations for the very first time. I remember Martin Fornage (now the CTO of Enphase) telling me about the first UMC being installed in a village in Mexico. He was sent to service a power supply problem. He found our equipment in a hut with chickens running around it on a dirt floor. The people loved it because they finally had phone service. There were hundreds of stories like that and all of them made me be proud to be part of it.
But now think back to 9/11 (and I apologize if you are not American, as this is a very personal experience for most of us). Remember not being able to get ahold of loved ones in New York? Verizon had a huge number of facilities that were destroyed by the collapse of the World Trade Center. They were scrambling to try to restore service. Doesn’t that memory bring back how important it is to be able to connect with our loved ones, friends and the world at large?
One of the things that came out of 9/11 was the Patriot Act. When I was at Red Condor, we had potential International Customers who would not use us because they did not want their mail flowing into the US. We struggle with the lines of privacy and safety. This causes us to argue with each other, even though we are not the enemy. Remember that as well.
So as you go about your business today, I think this is a great time to reflect on the Communications Industry and our mandate to serve. Yes, we make money. But we also bring connections to people and they value that greatly.
Have a great weekend.
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