telecommunications is an essential element


Providing a capability for overcoming barriers of distance and time, telecommunications is an essential element of the infrastructure for operation of the U.S.

Providing a capability for overcoming barriers of distance and time, telecommunications is an essential element of the infrastructure for operation of the U.S. economy and society. Many U.S. companies—indeed whole new industries—have benefited from and even developed as a result of U.S. strength in telecommunications. Notably, the modern Internet and Internet-based businesses ranging from Cisco to Yahoo! would not have been possible without past telecommunications research leading to such advances as high-speed optical communications and packet-switched networks.

Today, however, the position of the United States as a leading producer of telecommunications technology, basic knowledge, and necessary human talent (a critical component—as described in is at risk. The risk is magnified by the long period of time—as much as a decade or even longer—that it can take to translate a fundamental discovery or big new idea into a commercial product or service or to educate and train a new researcher.

The committee’s findings below outline challenges to the telecommunications sector’s continuing capacity for innovation. The recommendations that follow identify actions that the U.S. telecommunications industry, research community, and government should take together to strengthen the nation’s telecommunications research institutions and programs.
The scope of telecommunications technology and of the industry itself has grown dramatically over the past few decades, driven primarily by the success of the Internet and its applications, by the digitization of all types of media and forms of communication, and by the rising importance of communications as a key enabling technology.

The telecommunications industry, which once consisted mainly of the telephone companies and their equipment vendors, has expanded greatly. It now includes a broad set of service providers, including telephone companies, cable operators, Internet service providers, and wireless carriers, as well as equipment vendors offering fiber-optic, cable, and wireless connections. Telecommunications comprises all the hardware and software for the telecommunications infrastructure and the applications that run over that infrastructure. It involves communication of information in a wide array of media including voice, images, animation, video, documents, and data.

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