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Microsoft's Mundie: U.S. Broadband Efforts 'A Total Policy Failure'

Craig Mundie came to Washington this week, and as Microsoft's chief strategic thinker, replacing Bill Gates in that role, he has a lot on his mind.

Watch what Mundie had to say about robot receptionists, holding on to our white spaces and how he's different from Bill Gates here.

During an hour-long interview at his company's downtown offices, Mundie spoke bluntly about a number of Washington and technology issues: the failure of the U.S. to keep up in the worldwide race to extend broadband Internet service to its citizens, how the Federal Communications Commission should handle the "white spaces" in the radio spectrum, and what he thinks of "the cloud," an automaton receptionist being planned at Microsoft's headquarters and other matters on the frontiers of computing.

Some of his strongest words were reserved for the country's lagging position in rolling out broadband Internet service -- depending on what survey is used, the U.S. may rank as low as 14th in the world. He notes that at home in Seattle, he pays twice as much for broadband service as he would in Tokyo, where speeds are many times faster.

"My view is the country has had virtually a total policy failure for more than the last decade relative to this," he said, and the situation is "getting worse faster than most people perceive."

Like Google's top officials, Mundie is lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to allow the use of white spaces -- the portion of the radio wave spectrum in between the television stations -- for use of other devices.

As for computing, he said while there is a lot of talk about "the cloud," the idea that virtually all computing in the future will be done there is "bogus." For example, he predicts that the graphical user interfaces that all of us are accustomed to will one day be replaced by what he considers "natural user interfaces" -- that is, computers that we can talk to. But those computers, which will be able to see us and converse with us, will require vast computing power to handle "seeing" and "talking," and it makes more sense to have that power at home or in the office, rather than in the cloud.

As an example of that future, he talked about "Laura," an automated receptionist soon to be in use at Microsoft's headquarters. She will be able to see and converse with employees and arrange for them the shuttles that they need.

"It has all these mannerisms of a person," he said.

And finally, Mundie talked about where he and Bill Gates differ.

By Peter Whoriskey  |  October 3, 2008; 11:41 AM ET  | Category:  Peter Whoriskey
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imo he's right. I have the choice of comcast or verizon dsl(fios isn't implemented at the condo building yet & last I checked, cavalier dsl didn't have any slots open for a new line) Years ago, I had several dsl choices.
Does Verizon & Comcast still foot the bill for the FCC staff when they travel to conferences? I'd love to see someone at the post follow the comcast & verizon money trail on this issue.

Posted by: Mike | October 3, 2008 3:32 PM

It is a scandal and a shame that Telecommunications companies have spent more money and effort to "segment" the market to maximize profit extraction from customers rather than having any concern about actually making a working, efficient, low cost network. For example, in my new house in a new subdivison: I have both a Fiber cable and a Coax cable brought underground to my stupid is that? Then a Bell is running copper wire from the curb to junction box which is then wired to only 3 rooms using more copper wire. Getting DSL required more wiring and an additional copper wire running outside the walls to get it to were I wanted it.. after 2 upgrades to get higher speed 8M; I scraped the whole mess because of lack of reliability, slow speeds, and crappy service. Now I have Cable "high" speed connection which has similar speed issues! This is simply crazy! Rural India, Dutch Ghana, and all of Europe have better, faster, and cheaper service!! We have become a 3rd rate banana republic where the "masters" only exploit the Peons! The Bells should be disbanded, nationalized, and relegated to the marketing scrapeheap will the demised Wall Street firms and the corrupt politicans(is there any other kind?).

Posted by: Chaotician | October 3, 2008 3:58 PM

Craig Mundie from Microsoft should not just criticize America’s broadband policy he needs to also champion investment in technological innovations that could substantially reduce the cost of broadband deployment in America. Billions of dollars are being spent today on the search for alternate energy solutions yet hardly anything is being invested by Telcos to develop new higher bandwidth broadband technologies that telcos can deploy much less expensively in rural and urban areas. One new proprietary technology in its infancy that looks huge is called Bonded DSL Rings it uses a Telco’s existing copper telephone lines and is based on existing telecom standards and can deliver up to 400 mbps of bandwidth to Rural and urban residents at less than 1/20th the cost of fiber.

Posted by: PDMcA | October 5, 2008 2:22 AM

Of course, our telecom leaders will just say their industry is "unfairly maligned"

- see

Posted by: vinnie mirchandani | October 6, 2008 8:22 AM

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