Delivered daily: Broadband networks and the killer app(s)

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I remember the great infrastructure buildout of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It was filled with names like Nortel and Juniper, and phrases like “undersea cable”.

Big companies building big back-end technology for what would hopefully be a big, connected network.

Except, it didn’t really come.

Instead, we had arguments about GSM and CDMA. It wasn’t until there was a killer app did we actually need that infrastructure.

Then came YouTube and the iPhone and social media.

What the pessimists underestimated was that as more broadband came online, developers and entrepreneurs would invent all sorts of great things to do with it.

The challenge over the last decade: There hasn’t really been a killer app-for consumers or businesses–with a need for more broadband.

Broadband and bandwidth in general remind me a lot of the time when computer hard drives were something we had to worry about.

If our hard drives began filling up, we’d head over to Fry’s and pick up a larger one. Then mount that new, larger drive as a new volume leaving all the crap on the other, older, smaller hard drive.

Until we did it all over again in a few more months.

What’s the point of building more, larger, faster hard drives when, with a little management, we can do just fine with what we have?

The next killer “app”?

Maybe the next killer app isn’t an app at all.

Not the next YouTube or the next iPhone or the next social media platform.

What if the next killer app is us?


Have you bumped into someone new, then walked away from that conversation feeling a better person?

Maybe it’s that interaction that’s the next killer app.

And the only way we’re able to bring that next killer app to market is to bring more people online.

The bipartisan infrastructure law that Congress passed last year allows certain low-income families to receive a $30 monthly benefit or $75 a month on tribal lands to help pay for broadband service. Those who apply that benefit to one of the broadband plans covered under the deal announced Monday will essentially get high-speed internet service at no cost.

With many humans now born into the digital, public internet age, what if we looked to those who haven’t experienced today’s internet and connected with them?

What kind of entrepreneurial ideas would open up?

What kind of new experiences would we all enjoy?

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That model

In my early networking days, we referenced the OSI 7-layer model in everything we did.

I think about this model a lot these days.

While most users experience Layer 7, there are so many other layers that need to operate successfully to meet the user’s expectations.

And maybe that’s an additional layer (lowercase “L”) we need to put more at our focus.


While only a single reference (from a big player), announcements like the following feel like a win (users), win (network), win (opportunity):

Apple today launched Shop with a Specialist over Video, a new live shopping experience on for customers in the U.S. Shop with a Specialist over Video connects customers looking to purchase iPhone with a retail team member via a safe and secure, one-way video shopping session. With this new service, customers can browse the latest models, explore new features, and learn about Apple Trade In offers, carrier deals, switching to iOS, and various financing options.

What’s next

We know connecting people is a good thing. Whether it’s in person or online, the pandemic taught us that seeing and interacting with our friends, neighbors, family, coworkers is important.

Let’s take that energy and put the next killer app, people, front and center in everything we do as we’re building broadband networks.

It’s an opportunity to build the infrastructure, create the network and connect people from around the world, and right next door.

And in those areas where broadband has been inaccessible, let’s celebrate and learn from those communities as they begin to share and exchange their own ideas.


I realize this is a very steep hill to climb.

With public companies needing to meet (and exceed) the market’s demands and entrepreneurs feeling the need to take on outside funding to ‘scale’ their business, it’s tough to argue the opposite direction.

Focus on non-scalable resources like people?

Especially in a capitalism-based society?

Still, if even a portion of these organizations were to focus on the next killer app, long-term profits with a healthy community might be the ultimate success.

Thank you

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