March 22, 2018
with Jonathan Spalter
March’s Forum dinner featured keynote speaker Jonathan Spalter, President and Chief Executive Officer of USTelecom. Jonathan is no stranger to the French-American Foundation. In 1994, he was selected to participate in our flagship Young Leaders program and has since remained strongly involved in our initiatives. Drawing from his multifaceted background in public policy, entrepreneurial and executive experience he engaged our Transatlantic Forum members in an in-depth analysis of “The Future of the Open Internet in a Changing Technology Space.”
Jonathan is a proponent of a free and open internet and believes that there is need for a broader conversation about the definition of net neutrality, the reasons we find ourselves at this crossroad, what is at stake, and what has been broken. With a long track record leading innovative technology companies in the U.S., the Asia/Pacific, and Europe, as an example he shared a historical overview of the rise and fall of the French-wide web, the Minitel.
He went on to compare what happened in France, the rise and fall of the Minitel, to what happened in the U.S. in 2015. In the U.S. alone, more than a trillion and a half dollars have been invested to advance the creation of networks. We have seen a tremendous acceleration of access, but he expressed the opinion that we are fooling ourselves thinking that this progress could continue uninterrupted. There will be private, corporate and state level initiation to create networks, but if they are constrained by bad regulatory frameworks, there is systematic failure over time.
However, the biggest threat to the Internet is not faulty regulation, but the world of cyber security. Daily invasive attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and we need to figure out how to deal with the increasingly smart motivated cyber criminals.
We are in need of policy driven solutions not just for the private sector. Countries need to learn from each other’s best practices. It is a crucial time where we need cohesiveness to protect our nation and the internet. In the U.S. in particular, we are becoming tribal, voting according to our political party affiliation and the internet is under threat because we cannot come to a reasonable decision for its future.