Phil Bond Discusses Broadband and Other Tech Issues
Phil Bond, undersecretary of commerce for technology and chief of staff to the secretary of commerce, was online to take questions and comments on the administration's technology policy.
Prior to joining the Bush Administration, Bond directed federal public policy for Hewlett-Packard Company and served as senior vice president for government affairs and treasurer of the Information Technology Industry Council. He previously served in government as chief of staff to Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn (R-WA), deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs under then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, and chief of staff to Congressman Bob McEwen (R-OH)
A transcript follows.
Phil Bond: Hello to all. It is a pleasure to be joining you all online. It looks like there are plenty of questions, some ranging well beyound broadband. That's fine. I will try to get to a healthy cross-section.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Although broadband technology has taken the political spotlight for the last few months, there are a variety of other prominent issues brewing on the horizon, including privacy and digital rights management. What will the administration's top tech policy priorities be after the broadband debate is settled?
Phil Bond: Well, first I don't believe the broadband debate ended with House consideration of Tauzin-Dingell. That legislation faces a tougher time in the Senate (that's an understatement if you know how Senate Commerce Chairman Hollings feels about that bill).
Additionally, there are a host of related issues that all fit under the broadband debate -- including the digital rights management issue you mention. There will have to be some settlement on digital rights management and copyright issues in order to unlock more content. Private sector stakeholders are working that issue as we speak.
At the Commerce Department, we spent one day hosting a forum with many of these stakeholders -- from the Motion Picture Association to the leading IT companies -- trying to shed light on the issues and hasten a private sector solution.
St. Louis, Mo.: Will technology have a role to play in stopping terrorists from entering the country with fake passports or getting fake driver's licenses once they're inside?
Phil Bond: In the Bush Administration, it is clear that technology is critical to virtually every key issue confronting our nation. Be it education, homeland security, economic security, more efficient health care systems, or whatever you think of, it seems that technology will be critical.
Gov. Ridge has made clear that technology will be critical in his mission of Homeland Security. We need to do a better job of sharing data, mining data, and integrating data -- both horizontally and vertically so that we defeat those who would do harm to this country. Check out www.homelandsecurity.gov.
Arlington, Va.: The Federal government, with its big research budgets and many laboratories, is a huge source of technological innovation. But there seems to be a mixed message when it comes to transfering technology to the private sector. Technology transfer is said to be good for the country, and should be done, but there is no money in the budgets to help the companies and labs do this. Is this just double-talk, or is the Bush Administration serious about this?
Phil Bond: I would submit, in very strong terms, that the Bush Administration is serious about technology transfer. I happen to oversee the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the real jewels of the federal lab system. It is home to much of the technology transfer that goes on every day.
The genesis of technology transfer is R&D. The Bush Administration has just submitted a budget to the Hill that includes a record amount -- more than $110 billion -- for R&D.
We've also included dollars and plans to stabilize the Advanced Technology Program, a key tech transfer program that also has been controversial on the Hill.
Under my own aegis at Commerce, we have launched a series of workshops examining R&D and tech transfer issues. We started with a forum on private sector R&D, we've got one scheduled for federal lab R&D, and will follow that with one examining university R&D. All of those must work together to maintain American leadership in the Information Age.
Harrisburg, Pa.: In the latest version of art imitating life, last night's "West Wing" presented to the public the debate over the superconductor. Do you have any thoughts on the superconductor?
Phil Bond: The superconductor was a super debate of years past. But it represents a fundamental point to me: there is an appropriate role for government in the pursuit of basic scientific insight and knowledge.
A quick example: one of the research scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology was a co-winner of a Nobel Prize this year, a young man named Eric Cornell. He won that for discovering something known as the Bose-Einstein condensate -- a form of matter that Einstein theorized about. It has been the holy grail of science for years.His discovery will not yield immediate results in increased productivity. It will not lead to new computers next year. But he fundamentally helped advance human knowledge, and that will benefit us all in ways we can't yet imagine.
Alexandria, Va.: I see that the President appointed a group of experts to help promote broadband use. But it seems to me that the biggest barrier to broadband is cost -- both the cost of the service and the cost of computers capable of utilizing it. How does the White House envision this issue working itself out?
Phil Bond: Cost is clearly an issue for many households. One recent survey found that 75% of Internet households were content with a 56k dial-up connection, and therefore did not see enough value in paying for more speed.
Similarly, Charter Communications (a cable provider) arranged for all the households in one Georgia town to receive free cable modems. Even at a free price, only 49% of the people took the service....and that later fell to 29%.
So, there is no silver bullet to solving the puzzle of broadband. We need more content, more availability, more applications, more competition.
Maryland: How do you see technology's role in education?
Phil Bond: Technology is becoming more central to education with each passing day. Our children (including mine, two daughters aged 10 and 7) must be prepared for the Information Age. That means they must be comfortable with computers and other IT devices. They must know how to retrieve information efficiently. So, we see more computers at use in classrooms.
To maximize that effort, teachers need to be comfortable with the technology, too.
More and more, curricula are being digitized so that children (and adults) can learn in media-rich, interactive ways.
In fact, education will have to be seen as a lifelong endeavor for all of us in order to keep America in a leadership position and to keep our jobs secure.
Just yesterday, I saw a demo by a company that is taking some of the world's premier college professors online, making the very best teachers available to the world's Internet audience. That is the future I see.
Alexandria, Va.: What is the administration's plan for enabling citizen and business to government applications? Is this up to individual agencies or is there a central approach to doing this effeciently?
Phil Bond: In fact, the President has made e-government one of his five Presidential Management Initiatives. All agencies will be graded on how they are implementing that vision.In fact, across the federal government the Administration has proposed spending more than $50 billion in the next fiscal year. So, there is no lack of commitment.
At the same time, he has asked the Office of Management and Budget to head up the internal effort to identify cross-cutting initiatives in e-government. You can check out the state of play at www.egov.gov.
Phil Bond: Sorry to cut this short...I've got to get back to other tasks here. But this has been both fun and educational for me. I wish you could all have seen the array of great questions that came in. And since you all are clearly so interested in technology issues, I invite you to check out the Technology Administration site here at Commerce: www.ta.doc.gov. Thanks again to all!