BFA Co-Chair Harold Ford Jr. Speaks at South by Southwest – World-Leading Internet Innovation and the Broadband Internet to Matc
Usually when someone thinks of South by Southwest (SXSW), they think music, but, increasingly, the event has become a hub for innovation and technology. This year’s attendees get to see some of the most cutting edge electronics and hear from leaders of the tech industry.
BFA Co-Chair and former Representative Harold Ford Jr. was invited to address SXSW, and caught a glimpse of the future of American Internet innovation. With this cutting edge backdrop he spoke about the strong state of US broadband and a dynamic Internet ecosystem that seems to evolve every day.
Rep. Ford tied together the very different themes of SXSW during his remarks by explaining how artists and content providers have been able to use high-speed networks to hone their crafts and expand their audiences.
“Consumers, artists, content providers and app developers, the amazing stuff we are seeing here at SXSW, are constantly raising the bar, demanding more capacity, faster speeds, technological innovation and constant improvement.” Ford said. “Every year Internet network companies are making massive and continuous investments to build faster, smarter and more networks both wireless and wired.”
Many of the technologies previewed at SXSW are reliant on high-speed Internet networks. In the US, companies deliver the connections for these products by providing broadband to over 99.9% of the population. The speeds are also nothing to scoff at; with over 82% of US households are capable of reaching 100mbps. And the Internet will only continue improving. In 2011, companies invested $44.5 billion to improve their networks. These efficient networks are the fuel behind the innovative technologies seen at SXSW.
The speeds of US Internet networks have allowed people to share large amounts of information in fractions of a second. With increasing interconnectivity and higher speeds come other concerns, however, including privacy. Due to increased consumer usage, companies are seeing more and more personal information from users. At a panel discussion, Sara Kloek, Director of Outreach at the Association for Competitive Technology, said that she has seen groups including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Congress and state legislatures all looking at how to best protect Internet users’ privacy. However, these efforts lack the coordination needed to ensure the privacy of consumers. Without coordination, these efforts are making it more difficult for companies to put in place comprehensive, effective policies.
Another panelist, Christina Gagnier, CEO of TRAIL, said to ensure a robust Internet economy we must promote an ecosystem where, because of transparency and coordinated regulations, Internet users trust online tools and products. Through these efforts we can ensure the quality of the Internet will continue to satisfy users and future improvements will allow the US to maintain its global leadership role in Internet innovation.