Bob Metcalf, founder of 3Com, challenged telecoms carriers to bring optical fibre right up to consumers' doorsteps.
In a keynote speech that was often tongue in cheek but overall an accurate observation of the telecommunications industry, Metcalf said asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) and cable modem technologies were "copper retrofits".
Carriers are introducing these technologies to give consumers broadband access and in the case of ADSL, telcos can do this over their existing copper infrastructure.
Said Metcalf, speaking during this week's Supercomm event: "We're so busy doing copper retrofits that we are not concentrating on bringing fibre to the home. We can afford to do this, but some people will say, 'hey, we'll have to dig up all the roads, and roll all those trucks.' Have any of you noticed that we're doing that already? So why not give them some fibre while they're there?"
Metcalf, who is now a newspaper columnist, said there are several kinds of copper retrofit technologies - or stopgaps to having an all optical infrastructure - that carriers are rushing to implement. These include ADSL, cable modems, the use of power lines to access the Internet and fixed wireless networks.
He said the term 'fixed wireless' is puzzling: "The problem with fixed wireless is that it has the wrong name - it sounds like it was recently broken. And it's wireless which means they really wished they had wires."
But on a serious note he said the telecoms industry has three barriers to overcome: universal service; the overpriced Internet stockmarket; and the Internet economy.
Incumbent carriers are bound by universal service that means they have to provide connection to every part of their jurisdiction, including very remote locations.
"If rural universal service actually made sense it was many years ago when people actually lived on farms," he said.
Secondly, Metcalf warned that the sky high Internet stockmarket bubble would burst on 8 November, 1999, because "it's a Monday", he said.
"We still need to deploy and grow the Internet after the bubble bursts so we need to find a soft landing. We need to stop funding companies that don't deserve it, stop acquiring stupidly, stop rushing startups to IPO [initial public offering]. And failing those reforms I suggest you sell those stocks the Friday before the Monday," he continued.
Metcalf also warned that the current Internet economy, which is held together by online advertising will fail and that companies should look at alternative means to keep the Internet alive.
"We need a payment infrastructure. The Internet was funded for a long time by access fees and then it was funded by advertising. But people will realise it is not as profitable advertising online," he said.
But the Internet will continue growing as long as the bandwidth is there to keep up with demand: "The demand for bandwidth is similar to our demand for memory. By making memory cheaper and cheaper to manufacture, the demand goes up and up, so we must get on by building the all optical Intenet," he concluded.
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