Larry Page on Capitol Hill - "Broadband for the Future"

Uploaded by Google on 25.09.2008

We are extremely, extremely excited today to have the cofounder of Google, Larry Page,
with us, who came to Washington yet again
to tell us all how important and how critical white spaces are
and why we need to get the rules of the road out in the marketplace as soon as possible.
Larry, thanks for being here today.
[adjusting microphone]
>>PAGE: Thank you for that introduction. It's a real pleasure to be here and to have
all of you here. This is an issue I'm very passionate about,
and I hope to explain a little bit of that. But it's really wonderful to see all of you
here and see the interest in such an important issue.
Now, you guys may have heard also that yesterday we made an interesting announcement
about a little phone, so I thought I'd just show that and get it out of the way.
It's actually kind of germane to some of the issues that we have,
which is that this phone actually has Wi-Fi in it.
It's actually an amazing thing. We sort of forget that Wi-Fi didn't used to
exist, but Wi-Fi is the combination of a really junky
piece of spectrum that was thought to be useful only for garage
door openers because of interference concerns with microwave
ovens. And somehow, that's what we use every day
to connect to the Internet. I use Wi-Fi every day all day with my laptop,
and that's how I connect to the Internet. We just read a statistic that was amazing
to me. The projection is that there will be over
one billion Wi-Fi devices produced this year. Like this phone, like your laptop,
all sorts of devices that need to connect to the Internet are using Wi-Fi.
And that combination of junk spectrum that was going to be worried that you couldn't
possibly use it for anything because microwave ovens used the same frequency,
which should cause a lot of interference, suddenly is in one billion devices.
Chips cost about $5 in the device, and that's why there's a billion of those
things. And so this notion that we're hearing from
the broadcasters and people like that: "Oh, there's going to
be interference," they're broadcasting with 100,000 watts on
a lot of these stations. The notion that a small device like this is
going to significantly interfere with that is just garbage. It's not true.
I'll talk more about that. But I just wanted to start with sort of that
little story.
You know, the thing that's amazing to me is that we're sort of in this debate.
We have this tiny, tiny slice of spectrum that's used for unlicensed, open things.
There is 2.4 gigahertz and there's a few other things,
and everybody in the world uses those things all the time.
We're somehow, in the public debate, wondering if we should take that tiny, tiny
little sliver that everybody uses all the time and make
it a tiny bit bigger so everybody can use it all the time even
more and actually get higher data rates and get
things to work better. That's such a no-brainer for me.
I'm amazed that we're in the state of the debate that we are.
We've made tremendous progress, and I'll talk a little bit about that.
That's why I'm here, because I wanted to tell that story.
Let me just take a step back and say that this tiny slice of spectrum
that you're using to access the Internet is the worst piece of spectrum you could possibly
use--the Wi-Fi spectrum. So you've got the microwave ovens,
which most of the time you don't use microwaves so it's not that big a deal.
But if you do turn it on, you might lose your Wi-Fi, right?
It's not the best possible thing. By the way, if you're losing your Wi-Fi when
your microwave turns on, you probably should run out of the kitchen
because it's also radiating you. [laughter] So you should get that fixed.
But in any case, it doesn't go through walls. The reason why you use it in your microwave
is because it heats water and it actually interacts with a lot of stuff.
It doesn't go through walls very well at all. It basically goes through two walls and then
it stops. And so if you've tried to cover your house
with a Wi-Fi router, you'll discover once it goes through two walls
it basically stops, and it's very difficult to get coverage.
And if you're like me, I don't have coverage on many parts of my house
because I go through two walls and it stops, and I haven't bothered to put in multiple
hubs and so on, which is a hassle. With white spaces you'd be able to put in
the same hub you have now. It would probably cost the same amount it
does now or no different because it's going to be produced
in mass quantity like the billion devices that we have, and
it'll go much further. It'll go through your walls. You'll be able
to get higher data rates. You'll be able to move video around your house,
which is very difficult now. Even when you're getting your Wi-Fi signal
at the edge of your house, which is probably where your TV is, relative
to your computer, it doesn't go very fast.
It probably only goes at one megabit, which isn't really enough for an HDTV signal
if you wanted to, say, play a file on your computer on your TV.
It won't work for that, and that's why you don't see those things happening.
With white spaces you could do that, and it would work perfectly.
There's no Wi-Fi signal in this room that works. I tried.
There's one that seems to be provided by the broadcasters, ironically, but it doesn't work.
If you're sitting here with a laptop, it would be really nice to have a Wi-Fi signal,
and the cost of providing that is almost zero, but we're not doing that because the range
is difficult. You need to put one in each room and so on.
Actually, in the back there I noticed they've got a whole bunch of fiber optic cables
they're about to connect to improve the communications, but that takes time and money and so on.
Having a greater radius of signal that you can provide easily
is a huge economic advantage to the country and to the world.
Now, I probably don't have to tell you all this,
but the U.S. has gone from about 3rd to 16th in broadband penetration.
You measure it against other countries. The U.S. is a big place. It's difficult to
provide broadband. But there are many countries where it's just
as difficult that are ahead of us. There's a variety of reasons for that.
I think that providing coverage in rural areas is a really hard thing,
and that has been talked about already. We've done a lot of Wi-Fi projects. We covered
Mountain View, our hometown, with Wi-Fi. We use a transmitter every mile or something
like that to cover, or even less than that to cover
Mountain View. With white spaces you could do the same thing
but you go a couple miles or you go a much wider area.
That means that you can do it for one-tenth the cost, probably, or even less.
And so those things become much, much more practical.
In rural areas where you don't have many transmitters at all--
almost no transmitters of any type, which is why they're rural
and why they don't have access to anything-- you can have these kind of transmitters that
work over a wide, wide radius. That will be very, very valuable to those
people. You combine that like you have with the Wi-Fi,
a billion devices getting produced per year for $5.
Is that going to benefit people? I think that will benefit people a lot--not
a little bit, but a lot.
I don't know if you guys remember back to the days
when you were watching analog TV, but I do, and pretty much you wouldn't change the channel
and get a TV station on every channel, right? That would be wonderful, but that's not what
happened. There's a lot of unused channels, and that
space can be used. All of that static that you see on your television,
that's just wasted resource. There's no benefiting anybody to have that
static being on the airwaves. By not using the airwaves it doesn't benefit
anybody. It's not a natural resource we should try
to save. It's a natural resource that we have to use,
and we should use it efficiently, and we're not doing that now.
It's mostly static. If we were to analyze the spectrum in this
room, 95% of it would be static. There's absolutely no reason for that.
There's no good reason for that at all. The reason is that we're using 1900s technologies
instead of technologies from this day and age where we have computers,
we have low-cost radios, and those things can cooperate
to use that spectrum a lot more efficiently than we are now.
Talking about interference and those kinds of concerns,
we run a conference with our salespeople, and we get about 2,000 of them in one room
in a hotel, and they all have laptops. We give them all laptops, and they're all
sitting there working. We have a couple of Wi-Fi hubs set up,
and 2,000 people are working in the same room using a microwave oven spectrum,
and we worry about interference. It's just crazy.
So the advancements that we've made in radios are just amazing,
and what we can do for that $5 that goes into your laptop
or your telephone now in the Wi-Fi chip is an amazing piece of technology,
and it can really, really change the world, and it really works.
The FCC has been working on white space for about five years.
This has been debated and looked at and so on.
There has been this process for spectrum sensing and testing prototypes.
I can tell you I found one guy at MIT and I hired him
to make a prototype of spectrum sensing. He's a really smart guy. I tried to get him
to hire some more people. We have a couple of people in that group,
and we're trying to hire more. Those things are prototypes, and they've been
treated like it's a phone that's released, and it's not.
It's a proof of concept. It's about this big. It has wires coming out of it and so on.
We've somehow got in this state where politically we're doing field testing
of really what is a prototype device. I've actually been very happy with the results
of those tests. They're able to detect signals that are very
small and avoid interference and all those things.
I actually think they're a tremendous technical achievement.
It's not a shipping device ready for you to buy.
In general, when the FCC has done things, they haven't said,
"Oh, you have to prove that you might be able to do this thing"
"before you really do it in order for us to say that you can do it."
That's the state we're in. We've got this kind of convoluted logic.
All we need is the FCC to say what it generally says, which is,
"You can produce the device if it's shown that it doesn't interfere."
I have 100% confidence that will happen. In fact, if the FCC does that and says, "You
can produce a device like you produce" "for Wi-Fi or these other bands that does
not interfere," there will be hundreds of millions of dollars
invested in making those things non-interfering tomorrow.
People will write those checks, and it will happen.
That is not what's being debated. What's being debated now is, "Oh, there might
be issues," "so those can never be solved, so we should
never let you try." "You shouldn't be allowed to try to solve
those issues" "because we don't want you to use the spectrum."
"We want to do something else with it." That's really what's happening.
I just want people to really understand that. I'm happy to answer more questions about that.
There is nobody in the world who would truthfully tell you
there's no way to produce these devices without interference.
That is just garbage. Not true. That seems to be the prevailing kind of point
of view from the other side. I would point out that the other side in these
issues has a lot to benefit by keeping control of
spectrum. If you look at all the people who are arguing
against this, they all directly benefit against the public
good in this area. So please think long and hard before you all
repeat those arguments or think they're true. I really don't think they're true.
Maybe I should even say more about that because I feel like this is part of the main
issue. I was amazed, actually.
They have these trials they're running that they set up to test some of these things,
and they're expecting our side of this people to be able to detect wireless microphones
that were actually broadcasting on the same channel as TV stations.
That's impossible. There's no way to do that. What I'm telling you is the test was rigged
deliberately, and that's been out there. So yeah, if you're trying to detect a wireless
microphone that's on the same frequency as a television
station that is broadcasting with way more power,
you're going to detect the television station, not the wireless microphone.
It's not rocket science. So that's the kind of thing that we've been
up against here, and I find it despicable, so I just wanted
to make that really clear. This is not a technology issue.
I'd be very happy, and I think everyone in the alliance would be very happy
if the FCC came out and said, "You can produce any device you want"
"as long as it doesn't interfere." The FCC has amazing technical people.
They're good at testing things for interference. All they need to do is say that. It's not
a big deal. We actually don't need to go through all this
complexity right now at all.
But in any case, we are where we're at. We're actually very confident of this.
You can actually remove all the interference issues entirely and just say,
"We're not going to broadcast in areas where we know there are TV stations."
In fact, there's already a database of all the television stations and where they are,
and they actually don't move them very often. A television station is a pretty big piece
of equipment. It doesn't get moved. You can go online and check.
You can know roughly where you are. This phone knows where it is to three feet.
It's not a big deal to know where you are, even for a mobile device.
Just make sure that you're not interfering with any of those things.
So there's a variety of reasonable solutions to this.
We've proposed the numbers, and I'm very confident that we'll get through this.
The time is now for the FCC to act. There's been a lot of debate, there's been
a lot of work that's gone on, a lot of it very good, and I'm really hopeful
that they'll release an order to move forward before the election.
I really would encourage them to do that. I think that's a really important thing, for
them to act quickly. There's a billion people, a billion devices
that aren't getting produced today because the FCC has not acted.
This is an area where we could show real leadership in the world
in a way that matters to everybody. So I think that's a really important thing.
We've been running a campaign called Free the Airwaves,
which you've probably seen a little bit about, and I've been really excited about the results
we've had. We put up this website, we got a little bit
of attention paid to it, and just with that, in just over a month,
we've had more than 15,000 people-- I think you'll see on the graph here as it's
counting up each state there-- send a message to the FCC through this website.
They sent a message directly to the FCC saying that they support these efforts.
I think that shows you, even with a little bit of attention and a little bit of time,
the number of people who really care deeply about this issue.
I think that it's really important that the FCC stand up and really take good action here
that's in everybody's interests--that's in the economic interests.
That will help everybody go about their daily lives,
and things they already use, like Wi-Fi and so on,
will be radically improved by this--not a small amount of improvement,
a radical improvement.
I think the promise here is huge. That's why I'm here.
That's why I'm spending time on this. There is virtually no cost for any of these
things. This is a spectrum that is not being used
well now. There's a lot of spectrum that's not being
used well now, and I think that by doing this we can actually
make progress also on the rest of that spectrum, which is a really important social thing.
How we got to the stage where a little bit of junk spectrum
has caused us to have a billion devices being produced every year
just because it's unlicensed--and that's basically the only chunk that we have
that's unlicensed, and why we're debating whether we need a little bit more
unlicensed spectrum is beyond me. But if people want to debate me on that, I'm
happy to do it. It's so obvious that we should do this that
I don't even know how there's a debate on that.
So with that, I think those are the main things I wanted to say.
Maybe we'll open it up for questions. I think we've got a mike.
We've got a wireless mike.
>>PAGE: Oh, we've got a wireless mike, which hopefully will work.
Oh, it's wired. Why don't we have people line up in front
here and then we can--
>>[woman inaudible]
>>PAGE: It'll be quickest, if people want to ask questions,
line up behind this nice gentleman, and then we can ask them quickly.
>>GOLDSTEIN: I'm Phil Goldstein from FierceWireless. First of all, great presentation yesterday
in New York. This is a question that's probably on everyone's
mind. You talked about it a little bit.
How concerned is Google that this decision is going to be punted
towards the next administration? And if that happens, how does that change,
if at all, Google's strategy?
>>PAGE: Like I said, I'm very hopeful that they'll take action before the election,
and I'm encouraging them to do that, and I think that will happen.
We'll be in the fight. It's been going on for a while. We'll continue
to do it. There are a billion devices that aren't getting
produced per year because we haven't done it yet,
but we should do it at some point.
>>KIRBY: Paul Kirby with TR Daily. You said the tests were rigged deliberately.
The tests were done by the FCC, so you're saying the FCC rigged the tests?
>>PAGE: No, I'm not saying that. I think the broadcasters have been very active
in this. They've been down at big events and so on
like that. I just think that none of those things are
necessary. We've actually made a proposal that doesn't
require any of those things to actually happen in order to get started
on this. Like I said, all that the FCC needs to say
is that, "We will allow people to use the spectrum
in an unlicensed way" "if their devices don't interfere."
Literally, that one sentence is all that needs to be said.
The testing and so on can go on once you've spent $100 million to make an actual device.
Like I said, I've been very happy with the testing. I think it's gone great.
That apparently doesn't matter much, what the actual results are and so on.
There have been a number of proposals to deal with these things,
so it's difficult to debate the practicality when practically speaking,
you know where television stations are, there are safe harbors you can use
for the microphones and things like that, you can probably detect the microphones pretty
well anyways, and so on. It's hard for me to debate a practical issue
when there's actually no need for that, and all they need to say is they're going
to certify devices like they certify every other device to be
non-interfering, which they're very good at. Somehow it's turned into a political debate
rather than a real debate. I'm an engineer, so I like the real debate.
I'm going to end it. We don't have any more time.
Let's give Larry a big hand.
>>PAGE: Thank you.