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Cisco’s Chambers risks the wrath of comm

Last updated on July 23, 2020

In Bloomberg BusinessWeek, John Chambers argues for a national broadband plan, making the case that it should be considered a key piece of our national infrastructure. It’s not surprising that Cisco would favor policy that helps create more opportunity for networking equipment. But Chambers argues that Cisco would support such expansion for the good of the general welfare even if networking were not its core business.

Indeed, the editorial is somewhat gutsy given that some of Cisco’s largest customers are service providers that risk competition from government-provided broadband. Furthermore, such a plan would likely be wireless, and thus create a managed WWAN that would bypass Wi-Fi, cutting out Cisco’s Linksys router business (although there could be dual-mode devices, such as many handsets or Barnes & Noble’s Nook).

There’s one poor comparison in the piece’s argument, which compares national broadband with putting a man on the moon. Prior to the space race, and indeed not until very recently, there had been no substantive private efforts to put humans on the moon (Ralph Kramden’s threats and Frank Sinatra’s desire to sing among the stars notwithstanding). However, while the U.S. may lag in terms of the percentage of consumers using broadband, private industry has provided an acceptable solution for a high percentage of Americans.

A better example may be the government’s creation of the Internet (or, I would argue, GPS). There were certainly computer networks prior to the Internet, but not one to which they were all connected. It’s that all-encompassing option that the national broadband plan would seek to provide.