Effective expansion of federal support of telecommunications research through ATRA will require participation from both service providers and equipment vendors to help identify the most critical research needs together with complementary industry investments in research. ATRA can play an important role in facilitating mechanisms to enable service providers to pool research support.
Even with ATRA, NSF and DARPA will remain important contributors to U.S. telecommunications research efforts. The committee recommends that NSF and DARPA assess their investments in basic telecommunications research and consider increasing both their emphasis on and their level of investment in such research. Both should establish criteria for determining the appropriate level of telecommunications research funding. NSF should continue to strengthen its support for telecommunications research and should consider programs for attracting and developing young research talent. To stay at the forefront, DARPA should continue support of telecommunications research for military applications, even if there is the chance of commercial development of those technologies. In formulating its research programs, DARPA should also consider the telecommunications capabilities of potential adversaries and the risk of dependence on foreign suppliers for key technologies.
How important is telecommunications as an industry, and how important is telecommunications research to the overall health of that industry? Underlying these questions are several others. How important is telecommunications to the U.S. economy and society? To what extent are U.S. consumers likely to benefit directly from telecommunications research in terms of new products and services that enhance their lives or improve their effectiveness or productivity? How much scope for innovation is there left in telecommunications, or has telecommunications matured to the point that it is merely a commodity service or technology?
The core findings of this study—which are supported throughout this report—are that the telecommunications industry remains of crucial importance to the United States as a society, that a strong telecommunications research capability continues to be essential to the health and competitiveness of this U.S. industry internationally, and that the health of this industry strongly affects the U.S. economy in many ways.