Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Time for A Transition

Almost a year has passed since I last written a blog, why? Maybe after almost three decades in the industry I'm not excited by the technology these day. Maybe it has been the associations with my last two companies that have deflated the once full sails that I had for navigating through the industry. Or maybe it is the malaise that has wandered into the industry after the deflation of the bubble. Most of the innovation has migrated to the services delivered and customer equipment and out of the network. The pendulum has swung back to intelligent CPE/dumb network. Of course there are those that will argue with me that there is more intelligence in the network than ever with bandwidth on demand, SDN, NFV, IP-centric data transport, and the cloud. All of this technology are just techniques to optimize data transport from point A to point B. Exciting as it may be, we are just at the asymptote of the Moore's Law curve.

After reading this first paragraph you may begin to think that I am jaded. I prefer to think of it as experienced. I believe that the industry will still create breakthroughs in technology but they will be focused on the customer experience more than the network experience. There is still much work to do making access to the network ubiquitous and inexpensive. The creation of Inphotonics Research was to leverage the concept of open-access broadband infrastructure to increase customer choice and broadband penetration outside urban and suburban areas, but we were a bit ahead of our time. I know that open-access infrastructure would be the best alternative for consumers and municipalities, but I am not going to fight that fight again unless some unforeseen circumstance were to unveil itself.

When I started my telecommunication career in the mid-80 at AT&T Bell Laboratories, I was fascinated by the possibilities of fiber optic communications, and I chose to be a part of it all the way from basic research on III-V materials to make better laser diodes and photodetectors to the systems that used those devices. I was a part of many industry firsts though the innovation that myself and my colleagues created and delivered. As my career progressed, I evolved from a development/technical role to a business/management role but I still stayed on top of the technology because it was my differentiator. I continually educated myself on the latest technology and standards to remain on the leading edge of technology. My companies and customers benefited from this skill.

After the bubble broke, I made some decisions that were more family than career oriented. I was disillusioned with the industry because of the corruption and ineptness that I witnessed firsthand. Maybe I would have been less disillusioned if I had cashed in on some of the spoils, but despite my best recommendations our owners decided to take a different course. Still I ended up working with some great people over the last decade and a half while at Accedian Networks and even Sunrise Telecom. Through it all it was my customers that kept me going. It was the satisfaction that no matter what happened that I was giving them the best recommendations and value that I could provide.

All is not doom and gloom though. I have been involved in many industry firsts, and gained extensive knowledge and experience along the way. I have had the privilege of working with some great people both as colleagues and customers. A few months ago, I was contemplating what I should do for the next stage of my career. I am in Boulder, Colorado which I love and have ties to my family and community. The Denver/Boulder area is not known for being a hot-bed of telecom activity these days and investors are more interested in mobile applications and social media over investing in big infrastructure companies. A Sphero-like device has a better chance of being funded over an inexpensive device that can deliver broadband services to remote areas. It is a shame because we have a vibrant communications services industry in the region still the money is going elsewhere.

What to do? Fortunately my industry colleagues and friends are always there for me, and I reconnected with one of my best manufacturer representative to expand his business into the telecom sector. Charlie Fajardo built ComTech Technologies to serve the cable TV (a.k.a. MSO) industry. Charlie and his team have been extremely successful building a relationship with MSO customers over the years to build a great business that not only sells a wide variety of products to these companies, but is a unbiased and reliable technical source to provide recommendations to these service providers.

I have joined ComTech Sales to start the telecom practice to provide the same services to customers in the telecommunications industry. We will build on the already extensive list of manufacturers that we have partnered to service our telecommunications service provider customers. I am excited to embark on this new venture with Charlie and the team to grow ComTech Sales business to the level the team has done in the MSO space. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with my existing customers plus add many more as well as forge new and stronger relationships with our manufacturer partners. We are here to be a reliable resource to all communications companies to serve your needs from the customer all the way through the network. This will be an exciting new journey that I am thrilled to do.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Obama Proposes Overriding the Tenth Amendment

Obama’s speech at Cedar Falls, Iowa was like most of his speeches; much to do about nothing. He is proposing nothing short of allowing municipal governments to use taxpayer funds to compete against private enterprise, and he is encouraging the FCC to override 20 state laws in contradiction to the Tenth Amendment. I make no bones that I am a free market capitalist and I am strongly against the government taking over or competing against private enterprise. What Obama is proposing is not only anti-capitalism but also illegal.

I have written here that our current duopolies are not optimal for consumers, but replacing them with a subsidized government bureaucracy is a move in the wrong direction. I support municipal governments determining their own broadband destiny as much as I support removing restrictions allowing new entrants into the market by removing obstacles that municipalities and states have created. Twenty states have created laws to protect taxpayers from having to pay for cities failed attempts into the broadband services markets. These states realized that the communications market is competitive and fast moving. They have seen how over 50% of all municipal broadband efforts have failed leaving taxpayers to pay off creditors and bondholders (link, link). Proponents of government broadband, including the press, are quick to point out the few successes like EBP in Chattanooga and Cedar Falls, but they don’t bring up UTOPIA or Longmont, Colorado that is going for its forth attempt to provide residential broadband services. There are a variety of reasons that municipal broadband efforts fail which is why it is better to leave the risk to private enterprise.

Obama cannot instruct the FCC to just override the 20 state laws enacted to protect taxpayers. The Tenth Amendment gives states the ability to make its own laws without the federal government overriding them except for powers expressly granted by the Constitution and states. The Supreme Court has already upheld the authority of the states to prevent municipalities from providing telecommunications services in Nixon v. Missouri Municipal League by a 8 to 1 decision. He can say what he wants but case law is already pretty clear on states’ authority granted by the Telecommunications Act of 1986.

There is no question to the value of broadband services to a community, but it should be delivered in a competitive environment to enjoy all of the value that it brings. Either industry partnerships or cities should be allowed to come together to build open-access broadband fiber infrastructure as done in many cities and countries outside the United States. Sharing a common infrastructure will reduce the barrier to developing a profitable business model for a service provider; therefore, promoting competition that will benefit everyone in the community. This is the direction that Obama should be encouraging states to go.