Roadmap for investment and innovation in 2014

AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

Swiss scientist-adventurer and pilot Bertrand Piccard sits in the near-exact reconstruction of the cockpit of the sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse HB-SIB at the beginning of a non-stop 72 hours simulation test flight.

Roadmap for investment and innovation in 2014


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In the upcoming year, the United States and Europe will build on our many common interests: our values, our respect for the law and individual rights, our commitment to democracy and freedom, and our inter-dependent economies.  During my years in public service, I had the privilege to witness this special relationship while serving two U.S. presidents, both of whom placed the highest value on the EU-U.S. trans-Atlantic partnership. They understood that when the U.S. and EU put into practice sound and effective solutions to common policy challenges, these not only advance our own economies and societies, they can also become standards useful to other regions.  As we begin 2014, both sides of the Atlantic continue to face struggling economies. But our past shared experience demonstrates that if we work together on solutions that encourage economic growth and job creation, 2014 will strengthen Europe, the U.S. and all our global partners.

I work in the field of technology, and this field has been one of the few bright spots during this time of economic uncertainty. It will certainly be one of the levers of a full and sustainable recovery.  But before I discuss the potential of technology and innovation, and the related policy enablers, it is necessary to start with an even more important discussion of the fundamental purpose of technology, and of the responsibilities of a technology company like mine.  As technology grows ever more remarkable, we must never forget its purpose to serve our citizens and society, to make their personal, professional, and social lives more fulfilling. And it is the responsibility of companies like mine to remain focused on this purpose.  We must work together with our customers, with our policymakers, and with others in this complex technology ecosystem around the world, to advance the fundamental values of our customers and our societies. It is essential for all technology companies to make the necessary investments to safeguard our services and technology platforms, to protect our customers, and to work with policymakers to ensure we are advancing social objectives.

And I know technology can help address many of our economic and societal challenges.  We are in the midst of rapid technological and social change.  There’s not an industry that hasn’t been affected by these technologies, or that will not be even more radically affected over the next few years.  Only economies that embrace the digital revolution with a modern set of policies will prosper in a world where productivity, innovation, and efficiency will increasingly depend on reliable, mobile, and ubiquitous access to powerful, cloud-based information and information processing capabilities.

Enabling this digital revolution is neither inexpensive nor easy.  Massive ongoing investments are essential to maintain and expand the telecommunications infrastructure needed to connect all of us to ever more demanding applications and services. These types of investments are difficult. You must have focused leadership that is committed to constant innovation, constant reinvigoration of the business, and constant and persistent investment through good and bad times. In fact, the investments my company has made through the economic down cycles have always been when we have taken competitive leaps forward.

But these large risks can only be taken in an environment with a policy framework conducive to such investments, one with supportive spectrum, regulatory, and tax policies.  This is where we can benefit from an even stronger trans-Atlantic relationship. With a focus on our interconnected societies, Europe and the U.S.  must work together ever more closely – and learn from each other – to promote a healthy policy climate for communications technology.  On both sides of the Atlantic, telecom companies and their customers are looking to policymakers to create a transatlantic market without barriers, and to modernize their approach to communications regulation.

A few years ago, I was walking through the streets of Rome, and it occurred to me that Rome’s infrastructure bears similarities to the broadband infrastructure of today. Indeed, everyone who comes to Rome is astonished by the artistic beauty of this city. Yet, these beautiful sites are just the surface of the extraordinary accomplishment the Romans created over many centuries.

Rome is known around the world for innovation in infrastructure, as the Aqueducts are among the greatest achievements in the ancient world, and they stand as a testament to Roman engineering. When I think about the innovative system of water management, and the incredible technologies that the Romans created, the analogy to the present-day mobile and fixed broadband networks is clear. Many people think of the Internet as the content and applications that flow over it – like water.  In reality it was the intelligence and innovation of the infrastructure the Romans built over which the water flowed, that was the fundamental innovation and break-through technology.  It remains true today, where the network infrastructure is the fundamental innovative technology that allows for the creation and consumption of content.  Supporting the websites and applications we use every day, there must be a robust, resilient and intelligent network infrastructure to deliver the content that consumers demand.

If we as partners on both sides of the Atlantic can join forces to promote a healthy regulatory climate for investment in network infrastructure, our prospects for economic growth and recovery will increase, and so will innovation. It’s a virtuous cycle: when we build out this infrastructure, it enables other opportunities.  Just look at the explosion in application development and smart phone technology that has occurred as a result of investments to build modern mobile broadband networks.  Entirely new industries have emerged with enormous potential to not only entertain us, but to improve the quality of our lives. And these industries didn’t even exist just a few years ago.  They were enabled by massive investments in new mobile broadband platforms.

To help industry continue this rapid growth, the roadmap is clear in terms of priorities. First, you need spectrum — lots of it. Second, you need incentives for sustained capital investment. And third, you need modern regulation that looks to the future and doesn’t lock customers and providers into obsolete technologies and business models.   The U.S. and Europe can together achieve tremendous advancements, for our societies and our economies, by working together on this roadmap for growth and investment in 2014.

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