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Q & A With Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt weighs in on a range of telecom topics, including why we shouldn't regulate broadband voice services.

He may no longer be the FCC commish, but when it comes to matters telecom Reed Hundt is always worth listening to. The gracious Mr. Hundt, who wears many investment and advisory hats (in addition to his "day job" as senior advisor to McKinsey & Co.), sat down last week with Networking Pipeline for a "fireside chat" at the Stanford Court Hotel in Palo Alto, on topics ranging from the apparent ecomomic recovery to why VoIP needs a new acronym and no regulation.

Networking Pipeline: Is this a real recovery? It seems like telecom and networking is finally waking up again.

Reed Hundt: There is definitely that familiar smell of boom in the air again. I think that booms are innately about exuberance, as opposed to rationality -- although they have to have the seeds of rationality in them. I think that if we are going to have an uplift, it would be good if it did not also involve a corruption of trust, as occurred previously in the '90s. The one lesson we should take from the last boom/bust cycle is that you can be in a boom or in a bust, but you ought to be honest.

Having said that, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with exuberance. Honest exuberance is a darn good thing, and the smell is in the air again. I'm referring in particular to wireless, wireless broadband, and also the core notions of software, at last, really moving into the Web. There's also the obvious progress of Linux, and the creation of whole new distribution chains and a whole new space for service... just as you like to see, in a period of hope and uplift, these things are all distantly related, all variations on a theme. What is the fundamental theme? More and more bits, more and more users, greater and greater penetration in the domestic space, in the enterprise space, and on a global level.

It's exciting! Everyone's sweated through nigh on three years of wondering whether or not they could keep their job and enjoy the next uplift. All the survivors are pinching themselves, looking around the room to see who's still standing, and then deciding it's time to walk tall. That's the way it feels to me.

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