Convergence? No, but It’s a Start

It’s
the millennium buzzword. Your neighborhood paanwalla has heard of it, and he
also has his own unique idea about what the heck it means.

And so, everything that has anything to do with technology gets a convergence
tag. And so we have the Convergence Act…

Let’s get this straight: this act has little to do with convergence. It’s
the communications act of 2000, to replace the 1885 anachronism that has ruled
our airwaves and WANs and datacom and all the media that did not exist in 1885.

That is not to trivialize it: it’s a big step, and a foundation. It makes
life easier for service providers who had to run to different authorities for
licenses for a single service business. It brings voice, data and broadcasting
under a common regulatory authority, and that is a good thing.

While on the subject, though, why does every government initiative have to
have a "regulator" tag, bringing up images of policemen? Have you ever
heard of a "facilitator" government authority?

But the bigger issue is that this is a long way from convergence. That’s
the coming together of voice, data and video on a common medium, not under a
common regulator. Voice and data continue to be separated by government
artifices including tariffs and interconnect restrictions and laws.

My measure is simple: we will have convergence when we no longer have to
apply for a hundred separate voice lines for an office, plus a fiber leased line
for data (and backup ISDN and DSL). When we are no longer charged for them
separately, with tariffs that further separate them. When we don’t have to
apply for a "hunt-group" number (and wait for a year). When I can take
a single high-speed digital line for my company, and dynamically allocate voice
channels to a single inward number and multiplex data channels on the same
fiber. We’d pay for the bandwidth, whether that channel carries voice or
something else. We’ll have convergence when we can put a common network inside
our own office, attach PCs and VoIP phones we well as external voice and data
connections to that network. When we can freely interconnect voice and data
networks, and service providers. When your cable provider will give you
telephony over that cable, as well as Internet and other data services, along
with high-quality digital video and audio.

This "convergence act" is a big step that should have been take ten
years ago, but the real convergence challenge–and opportunity–lies ahead.

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