On this episode of Connected Nation, we talk with two top executives within the broadband industry about the billions of dollars in federal funding now on the table for expanding access to high-speed internet.
Learn which subject matter experts they believe are being left out of the conversation, the measurable ways they’ve seen high-speed internet transform economies, AND where they believe tech innovations are taking us.
Juniper Networks - https://www.juniper.net/us/en.html
Jessica Denson, Host (00:06):
This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our communities. On today's podcast, we talk with two top executives within the broadband industry about the billions of dollars in federal funding. Now on the table for expanding access to high speed internet, learn which subject matter experts they believe are being left out of the conversation and the measurable ways they've seen high speed internet transform economies to help some of the most vulnerable of populations. I'm Jessica Denson and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Denson, and today I'm talking with two executives within the broadband industry. Bob Friday, who is the Chief AI officer and CTO for Juniper Networks and Sapac Gar, who is the company's associate general counsel. Welcome gentlemen.
Guests 1 and 2 (01:04):
Thank you Jessica. Thank you Jessica. Thanks. Pleasure to be here.
Jessica Denson, Host (01:07):
I am excited to talk to you about Juniper Networks and all that you guys have done and experience. You've done some great things in this space. I'd like to give our audience a little background on each of my guests so everyone understands your area of expertise. So I'd like to start with you, Bob, tell us a little bit about Juniper Networks giving us a general overview of the company and what your role is as chief, a AI officer and cto.
Guests 1 and 2 (01:31):
Yeah, thanks, Jessica. Juniper Network historically been known as being kind of the heart of the internet. We started 20 some years ago really building these big routers that you find at the core of any internet. My role at Juniper started with the where we actually sold mist to Juniper in 2019. And as CTO of the enterprise business, I've been really focused on extending the value proposition of cloud and AI across Juniper's enterprise portfolio of AP switches in routers. As Juniper's chief, a chief AI officer, it's more focused on helping with the AI governance at Juniper and also helping extend that diet proposition of cloud AI across their data center SP and security businesses. So that's how I'm at Juniper and good to be here.
Jessica Denson, Host (02:18):
So layman's terms, <laugh>, can you explain what that means when you say I'm, I'm trying to advance AI across all of our networks?
Guests 1 and 2 (02:28):
If you look at my background, I started my career 34 years ago, kind of wireless and networking <affirmative>. And while I was at Cisco, what it came clear to me, I was working with a bunch of enterprise customers and they started to tell me, Hey Bob, if we're gonna put business critical things on these broadband wireless networks, you've gotta start making them more reliable. We can't have crashes we gotta be innovating faster. That was the other big thing around innovation. It's the speed of innovation, keeping up with that. And more importantly, it was really a paradigm shift around they wanted visibility on experiences, whether it was robots or people, if they're gonna put something critical on these networks, they wanna make sure that the actual user had a good experience. And that was really a paradigm shift of, in my previous startup, I was also a co-founder of Aerospace that was really around trying to help people take care of networking elements. This time around, it's more about trying to help people take care of the client to user experience. So when I say ai, it's really around moving from a paradigm and managing boxes, networking elements, really managing these end to end user experience in terms of trying to build something that can manage and operate networks on par with actual human IT domain experts, if that makes sense In layman terms.
Jessica Denson, Host (03:53):
<laugh>, Yeah, that breaks it down a little better. I think for just someone like myself or the average person who might not understand the technical terms of it really the paradigm shift. Why did you decide to make that? Is it something that's important to you or that you saw that, Oh, we really need to be looking more at end user?
Guests 1 and 2 (04:13):
Yeah, I mean actually it started back, if you remember Watson playing Jeopardy if you remember, they built Watson that could actually play Jeopardy on part of these human domain, actually beat Jeopardy championships. That's when I kinda started to realize that this AI step is more than just marketing hype, that there's actually something to it. And if they can build something that can play Jeopardy,
I should be able to build something that can actually manage answer questions on par with human IT domain experts. And if you look where networking's headed, it's getting much more complex. And that was the motivation of you guys. There has to be a better way to build and operate these broadband mobile networks. And I think AI is one of those things that's kind of on par with internet. It's kind of the next big way of wave of technologies that gonna impact across all segments of society, whether it's networking, healthcare, transportation, We're gonna see AI start impacting all segments of our society.
Jessica Denson, Host (05:15):
I'd love to get back to that later on in the podcast, but I wanna turn now to our other guests as well, who's also with Juniper Networks, Sun Pak, how are you? And I'm sorry if I'm butchering your name as Sun Pak, right? <laugh>?
Guests 1 and 2 (05:26):
Yes, that's right. Correct.
Jessica Denson, Host (05:28):
Ok. Tell us a bit about your role and background.
Guests 1 and 2 (05:31):
Well again, thank you for having me today. It's a pleasure to be here. So I am part of Juniper Network's legal team, and specifically I focus on our policy realm. And so my primary job is to coordinate juniper's views in response to changes in global government policy, making sure that we're on top of any laws or regulations that could affect not just the products that Juniper builds and develops, but also how the company operates, right? From restrictions on what we can put in our technology and the products that Bob develops but also how Juniper as a company operates. And so as part of that, I'll brief stakeholders on these issues and make sure that our relevant teams are aware of what Juniper needs to do to stay compliant with those requirements around the globe.
Jessica Denson, Host (06:25):
And you also act as the company's liaison to industry trade associations. Can you help our audience understand what are some key trade associations that work within this space, especially right now when so much is on the table?
Guests 1 and 2 (06:38):
Certainly. So one again, there are several associations in Washington DC and one major one is called the Information Technology Industry Council, which we're a member of. And that's a group of several dozen leading companies in the IT space that are focused on global technology policy issues from cybersecurity patent issues, tax issues, any sort of cybersecurity issues that come up. And again, not all companies will have the same views on how those issues should be addressed but we all care about them. And so it's helpful to be involved in the associations, get a sense of where other companies are, where we might be aligned. And to the extent we have different views we act accordingly.
Jessica Denson, Host (07:30):
And since you do deal with policy, I was really intrigued by your person's pitch to join us on the Connected Nation podcast specifically to talk about the urgent need for broadband expansion through the lens of both the challenges and solutions around the issue. And as sapac, as we know, there's a lot going on at the federal level that's also impacting states. Can you talk a little bit about the current policy challenges as you see them of course as Juniper sees them and opportunities that are out there right now?
Guests 1 and 2 (08:03):
Certainly. So as you and many your listeners might know we just saw a massive federal investment in and broadband expansion get enacted by Congress after many years of debate industries across the board community groups, nonprofits have been pushing for this level of investment for a long time and we're happy to see that that happened. But I think getting that enacted was almost the easy part because now is the hard work actually figuring out how to spend that money responsibly and in the right way. And so there's a large pot of money, 42 billion in grants to states for actual build out. There's 14 billion for making sure that connectivity is affordable to communities and households across the country a billion dollars for middle mile networks and smaller pots for other issues. The big step now that the law has been passed is where should that money go with respect to the build out?
A lot of it is supposed to be targeted towards communities that are underserved or unserved. We don't want policy makers didn't want most of the money going to expand access or enhance access for the big metropolitan areas that are already very connected. They want to go to those communities and parts of the country that either have no access or access that just doesn't match the needs of today. And so a lot of what we'll see now is states having to come up with plans to prioritize those communities working with the FCC to develop maps that then the providers and along with us can work to help find the solutions to meet their needs.
Jessica Denson, Host (09:50):
And just for the benefit of our audience, there are two ways this kind of categorize unserved and underserved <affirmative> unserved, maybe those who have no infrastructure generally and underserved as those who may have some options but not good speeds or good connections. Do you see that the same way? Does Juniper view that in those two lenses?
Guests 1 and 2 (10:10):
Yes. I think that's a fairly commonly accepted definition, yes.
Jessica Denson, Host (10:13):
Awesome. Okay. I'm gonna move on to Bob again for a moment to touch on this next issue. I mentioned at the top of the podcast teasing into to our discussion that Juniper feels like some subject matter experts are not really getting a voice that they really need to have at this moment, this critical moment. And that's of network experts in networking technology. I'd like to hand it to you, Bob, why do you feel that experts in this field need more seats at the table or at the very least to be included in the conversation? More?
Guests 1 and 2 (10:44):
For me personally, I started my career somewhat in this wireless really around unlicensed spectrum when the regulators were creating these unlicensed spectrum rules to drive innovation. And this really mean experts at the table really to get the right balance between creating regulation and rules that allow innovation without specifying the technology. And I think wifi is a great example of where they got it right. They created some spectrum regulation around allowing unlicensed technologies to evolve. And that's where wifi and BLE and you just see a ton of innovation coming out of those rules. And that's a case where regulators and industry experts work together to get rules in place that allow innovation without specifying the actual, without specifying a specific technology. I think the other place we seeing this broadband, especially in the rural area, is security. This is another area that's becoming much more prevalent in cyber security question is where do we need regulations? And it's not so much regulations. It is making sure that we allow security and innovation to happen inside of this new broadband, these new broadband initiatives as we start to connect more devices and people across the world. So I think that's kind of the case where regulators and industry need to work together to really enable the next generation of broadband and mobile internet connectivity.
Jessica Denson, Host (12:09):
And I don't think it would be a stretch to say, or you could say, I don't want be part of that, Jessica, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say that sometimes people that make these decisions or regulate different industries don't necessarily understand them. Would that be fair?
Guests 1 and 2 (12:25):
I think it's fair to say when you work with regulators, there's a balancing act between lobbyists who are pushing for some particular technology outcome. And I think that is where regulators have to basically balance, make sure they realize is someone advocating for a particular technology or they're really advocating for innovation. So I think it's fair to say that that regulators in general probably have a hard time understanding the technology piece of the puzzle especially when they're getting hit by lobbyists from all different groups.
Jessica Denson, Host (12:59):
Who do you believe trust that that would be a difficult spot to be in? Sticking with you, Bob you've talked a little bit about innovative being innovative and technology's role in terms of solutions. Can you expand upon, really dive into some of the things that you see coming specifically? Cause I think a lot of people would be interested to hear your point of view on that and why innovation is even important.
Guests 1 and 2 (13:24):
Well, I mean I think I'm very focused on this mobile broadband cuz I think in our future wireless mobility is the answer to serving rural underserved areas. We're not gonna lay fiber to all these underserved areas. So ultimately wireless and broadband are gonna be involved in this. Innovation's very critical cuz ultimately if you look at spectrum, it's a fixed resource. You can't create it. You have to be leverage it more intelligently. And so we're starting to see regulations moving from unlicensed spectrum rules, which is kind of where we sell spectrum to mobile operators for cellular networks. We have these unlicensed rules that we're all our wifi and everything inside of our home is being connected. We're actually starting to see another middle brand of what they call private cellular where they're trying to create new regulation around shared spectrum. And this is what drives innovation. How are we gonna leverage the spectrum in more efficient ways and open it up for innovation.
Jessica Denson, Host (14:29):
And why do you think innovation is even critical?
Guests 1 and 2 (14:31):
Well, like I said, innovation is critical in terms of how do we basically gonna get more out of a fixed resource, right?
Jessica Denson, Host (14:39):
Guests 1 and 2 (14:39):
And this is what we saw with wifi, right? Wifi was basically we had regulations and we saw a whole industry emerge around wifi. If you look back at the early histories of how wifi got started, it started with regulations that enable innovation. And then out of that can industry
Jessica Denson, Host (14:55):
Standard. I understand. How do you meld the importance of navigating policy in DC politics with this type of innovation and forward thinking that Juniper's doing especially in this space? Is that a difficult task <laugh>? Is that tough <laugh>?
Guests 1 and 2 (15:15):
It can be. And I certainly am not an expert in all these areas and that's why we have experts like Bob and others within the company that really understand not only where the tech technology is today, but where it's headed. So colleagues like Bob can give a sense to regulators and policy makers in terms of what are the capabilities and features that companies are offering today and how the regulatory and policy landscape has helped shape that and how to ensure that future regulations and policies and continue to promote innovation and don't hamstring where we see technology headed. And so those AI solutions that Bob is talking about, that mobile broadband, we work to make sure that policy makers are aware of what Juniper is doing. Our industry counterparts have those same conversations with policy makers because policy makers, as you noted earlier, they're not experts in all these fields and they can't not expected to be It's our job to convey to them where the industry is heading. And so they have a better sense of how they can enable that innovation ecosystem.
Jessica Denson, Host (16:23):
I I've been asked by journalists over the last year especially what mistake state or federal leaders could use. And my answer has been that it's really important to not work with a lot of people that are just popping up because there's billions of dollars now and they don't have this background in broadband. And this landscape as a non-profit connect nation feels like it's very important to partner with everybody to partner with for-profits and non-profits. Too big of a problem to do on your own. So my point is I'm bringing that around Bob to you because Juniper has years and years of experience in this and you've helped some vulnerable groups correct. During your work. I would love if you could highlight a few examples of that especially from what I've heard, you've done some stuff with the Navajo Nation, which I know that tribal organizations are tribal areas are a big part of this funding landscape right now.
Guests 1 and 2 (17:25):
Yeah, I mean I think Navajo Nation, that's a use case. We work with Sacred Wind Communications and that was really in terms of trying to provide fiber to an underserved area. And that's where Juniper is leveraging its background of service providers and the internet extending that expertise into private communities, whether it's Navajo nation or a rural city or a rural school that's trying to basically provide fiber. So that's the basic beginnings of broadband is getting that first fiber connection out somewhere. The other piece we're helping with right now is on the mobile side, either around wifi or private 5g. Once we have fiber into a community, the next thing is how to make it easy for them to access. And that's where a combination of unlicensed wifi or private cellular is starting to make a difference to these communities, especially in education where they're basically trying to get to underserved students where basically mobile cellular or mobile operators are not willing to deploy networks currently. Really.
Jessica Denson, Host (18:29):
And can you give some ideas of some what that means when you do implement that real world access? I talked about in our open that it really affects economies, it really affects vulnerable people, it can help shape things. And can you share some examples or some measurable ways you've seen that change create some positive change in communities?
Guests 1 and 2 (18:51):
Yeah, I mean if I'm saying if you look at mobility, if you look at the reports from CDC and International Energy, about 90% of the world population now has access to clean water and electricity. Mobile internet is about up to 66%. And this is where kind of governments all around the world are starting to realize mobile internet, internet connectivity is almost an economic economic necessity. It's an economic necessity for doing business. It's becoming an educational, economic necessity, almost an education. If you don't have access to the internet you're disadvantaged as part of that educational thing. And I think that's one area where we're starting to focus with both fiber and private cellular is making sure every student has access to internet. Every school, especially when you go home, it's one thing a school we provide wifi connectivity, making sure they have iPads and basically able to access the internet. The question is when they go home, how do we make sure these students actually still have access to the internet and can do their homework and can actually learn? Cuz the whole concept of learning is changing now with the internet between school and college mostly, if you access to the internet, you can almost be self-taught, right? And that's where internet connectivity is becoming a critical part of the next generation's education.
Jessica Denson, Host (20:24):
Yeah, I have found I've been with Connect Nation for six years and pre pandemic sometimes explaining to journalists or even state or federal leaders why it was so important to invest in this was more difficult. Whereas now pre post pandemic there's more of an understanding. Are you seeing that in communities as well?
Guests 1 and 2 (20:45):
I think the university thing with Covid, I mean Covid has basically fundamentally changed how we live and work. The whole workforce, and this just came up in a Juniper meeting today, is around hybrid working. And this is where we're starting out. More and more people are spending time with their family at home. It's almost changing the family dynamic. It's almost making for a better family dynamic. Before we were spending five days a week at work, now a lot of people are spending two or three days a week at work and spending more times with their family. So I think post Covid has really changed how we work and how we live totally now. And I think from a broadband perspective, it gets back to broadband to the home is becoming even more important. We're spending more time with our family and our work at home
Jessica Denson, Host (21:35):
And some, How do you feel that shaping good policy now plays a role in this work to close the digital divide? Is that critical? And does it really inform what you guys do at Juniper?
Guests 1 and 2 (21:48):
It certainly does. And I'm glad you both brought up the education and pandemic points. I think there was really nothing more disheartening the last couple of years than seeing on the news kids that had to sit outside of a cafe, elementary school students sitting outside of a McDonald's or another a Starbucks because they had no interconnect internet connection at home. And that's how everyone was learning or going to work. And as you mentioned it, it's easier now to convey to policy makers the importance of connectivity and not just connectivity, but the high speed connectivity. That's almost the necessity now so that students can learn and people can participate in their workplace at the level they need to be. So it's much easier to make that case now because everyone has lived through it.
Jessica Denson, Host (22:39):
I think that's great. And I love that you brought up McDonald's because I brought that up a few years back and my CEO still is. He's like, What? No, they don't go to <laugh>. And now it's become one of the case studies that everybody uses. But I mentioned earlier that the big mistake connect Nation feels leaders can make at this moment is to work with groups that don't have deep experience within broadband. That is from connected nation's point of view. I would love to hear from each of you, and we can begin with you Sapac, since we're we're already on topic with you. What do you feel are some critical things leaders at all levels should consider at this moment? What mistake they shouldn't be making, <laugh>, What are some good steps they could take? I'd like you each to answer that. We'll begin with you some puck.
Guests 1 and 2 (23:24):
I think primarily it's very important for policy makers to consider how nuanced the industry is in this space, right? Broadband isn't just about the source providers or the radio towers or the communities or the network providers. It's all of us. We all have a stake and a voice and how this problem can be solved. And so I think it's really important to keep all the different views in mind and make sure that the goal is to provide that connectivity to those underserved and unserved citizens of our nation. And let's figure out from each stakeholder what the problems they face are solving that problem and what we can do to address those issues.
Jessica Denson, Host (24:11):
And Bob, your thoughts on the question?
Guests 1 and 2 (24:14):
For me personally, if I look at leaders one of missed core principles when we started the company was this concept of family first. And this is really the concept of when we're working or doing anything, it's really in context of helping our families and our friends. So I kinda always tell leaders whether it's a business or government, you know, need to have this family first mentality. We're doing this all to make the world a better place for our next generation. The other point I usually try to make to leaders is ultimately, whether it's a business or a startup, this is what I call the ultimate team sport. If you're gonna do something, to your point, it takes a village to make something great in startups. You know, have to have great product, great sales, great marketing. If we're doing regulation, broadband and regulation, it's gonna take great technologists, great spectrum regulators, great government, you know, want great rock stars in all the positions to make something great happen. So that's my others. Make sure make have great rock stars in all the positions that need to be played.
Jessica Denson, Host (25:24):
All right. I'd like you both to do a little forecasting for us and then I'll give you a chance to give our final thoughts. I won't keep you all day, but soak, if you could give us a five year forecast for the policy world. And Bob, if you could do the same on the innovation side, I'd love to get an idea of where you see we're going soak, If you could begin and just tell us what you think policy, how is it going to evolve over the coming year to five years?
Guests 1 and 2 (25:54):
It might not be a surprise, but I certainly think we'll see even more attention on cybersecurity and data protection. We're seeing a lot of governments around the world impose their own country specific rules and requirements in those two spaces. At some point, I hope we don't get to the point where the system, the governance is so fragmented that it's hard for companies to reach, as Bob pointed out, reach families and provide solutions to families across the world. But it is a large ecosystem. We work with companies and stakeholders across the world and building the technologies that we do and delivering them to communities across the globe. And hopefully we won't get to the point where the government system is so fragmented that we can't do that anymore. So I hope that we'll be able to work with policy makers to make sure that the rules that we do become subject to are more uniform and work to enhance community and connectivity and not fragment it further.
Jessica Denson, Host (26:54):
Yeah, I would echo that. I think that would be fantastic. All of us would love to see that. A, and Bob, I know you've spoken some on the innovation side, but FutureCast for us five years, what will we be seeing in your mind?
Guests 1 and 2 (27:09):
For me, when I look what's happened over my 40 year career between cellular, wifi, the internet, how fast things are changing, I just see more acceleration that the things are changing faster than the past. What our kids are gonna be living through is gonna be quicker. I think AI cloud for the networking space I think there's two great two trends happening. One is cloud and the power that the cloud compute and storage bring in terms of speed of innovation. I think we're gonna see that accelerate as we see more things move into this public private cloud. And then ai, I think if we look back over cellular wifi internet, that was a 20 year journey. I think we're just at the beginnings of this AI journey. So I think we're gonna see that radically change over the next five to 20 years.
Jessica Denson, Host (28:01):
That's exciting. It's amazing where we could go. You never know. <laugh> I'd like you each to leave us with your final thoughts, what you'd really like people to walk away from this conversation, perhaps considering or thinking on some. Let's begin with you and then we'll hand it to Bob.
Guests 1 and 2 (28:18):
Thank you Jessica. And first of all, thank you very much for having me. I've really enjoyed this discussion. What I'd want listeners to walk away knowing is that there are companies like Juniper people like Bob at Juniper, who are really focused on solving big problems and bringing communities together. And that's what all of this broadband discussion is about. It's about bringing people and communities together and it's not just Juniper sellers as well.
Jessica Denson, Host (28:45):
And Bob, your final thoughts for the day?
Guests 1 and 2 (28:49):
I guess I would look back and go, if we look where broadband and networking has funda kind of made the world a smaller piece. And if you look back in the last 40 years, we've kind of enjoyed an unnatural piece across the world in terms of trade and how people get to know each other. And I think the large part has been because of broadband networking, it's very hard to once you have lunch with someone, it's hard to be mad at 'em, right? And I think
Jessica Denson, Host (29:13):
Guests 1 and 2 (29:15):
Think networking has brought us together so we get to know each other better at a whole world around the world. And I think that is the key to communicating and networkings a big part of that, making sure we all communicate in real time
Jessica Denson, Host (29:28):
Well, I think it's a great place to leave it. I wanna thank you both for being here and joining us today. I really appreciate your time and you sharing your expertise and your thoughts on this subject.
Guests 1 and 2 (29:38):
Thank you so much. I appreciate the time. Yep. Thank you Jessica.
Jessica Denson, Host (29:41):
It's been fine. Thank you. We'd love to have you back as you have new projects and things happen in the coming months and years. So I'll keep in touch with your PR team again. Our guests today have been Bob Friday, who is the chief AI officer and CTO for Juniper Networks and some Pac Gar, who is the company's associate general counsel. I'll include a link to their company website in the description of this podcast. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and wanna know more about us, head to connected nation.org or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.