According to some estimates, up to $300 billion would be required to achieve everything.
The bulk of that money will come from private industry, however. “The U.S. has a very robust system for competition in terms of broadband providers,” Mr. Huang said. They include traditional telecom operators that are investing in fiber-optic capability and cable and wireless telecom providers that are investing to get broadband to the American public.
Mr. Huang noted that China has a unique opportunity to build state-of-the-art broadband: “There isn’t the legacy of copper wires we have in our country, where we have telecom infrastructure going back to the 1930s,” he noted.
When one studies broadband opportunities in the United States, one finds there is a clear opportunity for third- and fourth-generation wireless, Mr. Huang added. There also is opportunity for very high-capacity network connections for fiber-optic cable. “For us in the United States, it is not just a matter of picking one or the other technology,” he said. “It also is to make sure there is an ecosystem that can leverage investment by the public sector, which is small, with investment from the private sector.”
A member of the Chinese delegation asked how the United States initiated its smart grid program. She wanted to know if pilot projects were led by state governments, the federal government, or by a company, and whether pilots will be tested in one place first or launched nationally.
Mr. Huang explained that the federal role is limited. He said government investments in efforts such as smart grid and health-care information technology are a very small part of what is needed to fulfill deployment across the United States. The $15.5 billion mentioned in his presentation represents federal government investment in research, development, and very limited deployment, such as proof-of-concept demonstrations in communities. “We hope that once these particular initiatives demonstrate commercial value, they will be commercialized by the private sector,” he said. “We hope that federal funding will help jump-start development and accelerate full deployment in the future.”
Dr. Breznitz thanked the panelists, and said he hoped the discussion will stimulate dialogue for years to come.