SUPERCOMM Thursday keynotes get back to business

CHICAGO--Thursday morning's keynote speeches at SUPERCOMM provided a cool contrast from the Wednesday batch, which had included strong statements from Verizon chief Ivan Seidenberg in opposition of Net neutrality, a wide-ranging and engaging carrier CTO panel with green technology as an undercurrent and a stage interview of TiVo chief Tom Rogers, in which he managed to come off as a smug, jokey, but willing potential partner to telcos.

Thursday's group--AT&T Operations president John Stankey, Cox Communications CEO Patrick Esser, Nokia Siemens North America president Sue Spradley and U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra--presented more of a mixed bag of good intentions and wishful thinking. On the keynote tone scale, it could be said that Thursday was re-assuring, generally positive presentation after Wednesday's unpredictable--and therefore more entertaining--theater.

Stankey, unlike Seidenberg, didn't mount a case for why Net neutrality doesn't make sense, instead opting for the more general comment that "there's plenty of competition in the market already," and that any new rules shouldn't slow the progress that's already being made without them. Otherwise, Stankey said AT&T is working to reduce the number of vendors it works with, a statements that would have made many in the crowd gasp had the perception of this effort not been circulating through the industry for several months already.  

Esser was one of few keynote speakers so far to take SUPERCOMM's intended broadband themes to heart, delivering a good-news, positive-vibes talk on how Cox is working closely with education interests to promote broadband-based learning in schools located in under-served regions. "It not broadband to the chalkboard; it's broadband to the 'smart-board,'" he said.

Neither Stankey nor Esser took any telco-vs.-cable-style jabs against the other, perhaps because while Cox has recently topped voice telephony customer satisfaction ratings, AT&T has done the same in the TV world.  

Spradley spoke optimistically of "the digital self" that will benefit from the efforts of those service providers to expand their broadband capabilities, though some in the audience probably were wondering what Nokia Siemens' role will continue to be, given that the under-performing company is the source of discontent among its two corporate parents.  

Chopra served the morning's wake-up call, if mostly by virtue of his loud and animated speaking style. He took a motivational tone as he talked about what the telecom industry can do for sectors like healthcare (had to work healthcare into the speech somehow) and education, both in the U.S. and abroad in countries re-building from war and terrorism. Chopra also reiterated many of the Obama administration's well-known technology goals, though he didn't take Seidenberg's bait to make a case for why Net neutrality is a good idea.

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