Palm chief boosts broadband

The United States must find a way to pipe high-speed Internet access into 100 million homes and small businesses by 2010, or risk losing an important lead in the global push to broadband, says Eric Benhamou, Palm Inc.'s chief executive officer.

Benhamou says ubiquitous home broadband could lift the economy out of its current slump and drive technical innovation. He spoke to members of the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council this week.

Just as electricity created a market for lamps and toasters, omnipresent broadband will drive the market for network appliances, says Benhamou, who came to Palm from 3Com Corp., where he remains chairman. Some such appliances, including 3Com's short-lived Audrey and the cancelled Kerbango Internet radio, have already flopped. The products failed because too few homes had broadband to take advantage of the devices, Benhamou says.

Today, some 80 percent of the households have access to broadband service. But only about 10 percent of them have signed up for it. A frequent explanation by pundits is that high-speed access doesn't offer enough extras to warrant paying US$40 to $50 monthly. Benhamou concurs.

Deployment blues

Getting broadband into the home is proving a daunting task,Benhamou says. He advocates a team effort by private industry and government, with broadband named a legislative priority. "It has to come from the highest levels, from the president, Congress, the FCC, and on down," he said.

His pitch is shared by the lobbying group TechNet, cofounded last spring by a number of technology industry firms and individuals. Cisco, Intel, 3Com, and Benhamou himself were among the originators.

The industry doesn't seek government handouts, Benhamou says. But TechNet is stumping for a hands-off approach to telecom legislation, and help in the form of industry tax credits.

For example, the 1996 telecom deregulation legislation failed to encourage broadband, he says. Now, current bills may fix the earlier shortsightedness. For example, the Tauzin-Dingell Bill seeks to lift restrictions on local phone companies, so they can compete for long-distance data service without allowing rivals to share their local-phone facilities.

Still, the industry shoulders some blame for lackluster adoption of broadband services. Benhamou blames the industry for spending too much time and money for backbone networks, and neglecting the so-called last mile that brings service to homes. Benhamou says a measly 2.6 percent of the tens of thousands of miles of fiber optic lines are actually used.

"Access trails expectation," he said.

What's more, Benhamou warns, we could make the same investment mistake with the wireless Web. Companies are spending hundreds of billions of dollars licensing spectrum in the United States and Europe, without building adequate networks, he says.

Is copyright a constraint?

Benhamou also concedes the industry may have gone too far with some copyright initiatives, which could stifle growth.

He criticized harsh digital copyrights of music and video, and says digital rights management schemes serve the industry and not the consumer.

"Digital rights today define fair use so narrowly it's not even practical," he said. If copyright holders were more flexible about the use of digital media, they could help drive development of richer multimedia content for consumers. That in turn, Benhamou notes, would whet consumers' appetite for broadband connections.

Of course, ISP (Internet service provider) bankruptcy filings have contributed to a dismal year for broadband, Benhamou acknowledges.

"[The year] 2001 has been really lousy," Benhamou says. "I think we are all just looking forward to turning the page on a lousy year."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Spring

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?