Thoughts on Internet2/UCAN business models

April 15th, 2011 by kc

This month Internet2’s new UCAN project issued a call for white papers on how they could use their $65M BTOP grant in operationally sustainable ways, i.e., so the infrastructure they build will have a chance of surviving when the federal stimulus project money runs out.

We held a relevant workshop 5 years ago, part of which was published in CommLaw the following year. I’ve also written several other essays on related issues:

  • Data collection and reporting requirements for broadband stimulus recipients
  • Top ten ($7.2B) broadband stimulus: ideal conditions
  • Apostle of a new faith “whose miracles can be seen in front of people”
  • Ten Things Lawyers Should Know About the Internet
  • Internet infrastructure economics: top ten things i have learned so far
  • If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It
  • My other high level recommendations related to the specific wording of the CFP:

    (1) You are building a utility (water, not wine), so business models should be reconceptualized as such. Replace “networks” and “services” with “sewage system” or “federal interstate system” into each of your requested bulleted paper topics, and you’ll get back on the right track.

    (2) Services most needed by everyone: moving bits from end-to-end as cheaply as possible. Do not try to become an application service provider to monetize the network. Commercial providers have this line of business “under control”; there’s a reason they have not pursued it in underserved areas. BTOP was supposed to be about empowering communities to become sustainable networks themselves. Catalog and disseminate lessons learned from previous attempts at doing so; there is already a decade of history in this space.

    (3) Don’t forget about — or postpone till the network is built — being able to study the network itself, to learn how to optimize costs as well as deal with security problems. bring a science policy team in from the beginning to help address measurement and privacy/data-sharing issues. economic transparency is as critical as it is challenging (Internet2 admits it has failed at this part..)

    Happy to discuss further, but can’t make deadlines like this..,

    k (on I2 Research Advisory Council)

    [Note submitted 14 April 2011 upon UCAN Task Force request for white papers, but not posted there because it did not match their formatting requirements. Other papers linked there worth reading; if Internet2/UCAN really follows all this advice they will maximize the positive impact of this likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If they follow (3) above they will even improve their performance on their network research leadership mission in the process.]

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