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SuperComm FCC Chairman Michael Powell has a grand vision for 2005 - one that includes years of communications hype turning into fruitful reality.

"I think the industry will be hot one year from now, and I mean that sincerely," he said, during a speech here at the SuperComm conference. "I think 04 is the year the match is lit, but I think 05 a lot of this will be on fire."

The "this" under discussion was primarily broadband and wireless technology. Like any good optimistic politician, Powell believes the tipping point has been reached, meaning there are enough users, applications and interested vendors to make the delivery of high-speed Internet services very attractive. He characterized the mood as being one that "assumes" broadband connections are present as opposed to a mood that still caters to narrowband services.

Giddy yet? How about a little more.

"I am extremely enthusiastic," Powell said. "I would not say the industry is out of the woods, but for three years we have been pushing our way through.

"I think for years now, almost a decade, we've talked and talked about convergence. . . That talk is now action. It is resonating in a way individual consumers can taste and feel."

Powell comes off as a capable man - kind of a shorter, squatter version of his father Secretary of State Colin Powell. Time and again, however, his word choice makes one feel nervous. Why do politicians insist on referring to the citizenry as consumers? Powell, in particular, loves to promote Tivo and fancy TVs at every turn.

It's not clear that the FCC chairman needs to be so zealous about pushing technology trinkets. In a painfully perverted way, his mission to wash out the mouths of radio hosts with soap makes more sense than doing advertising for vendors. And that hurts.

But when not viewing the SuperComm crowd with dollar signs over their collective heads, Powell did have moments where he returned to policy.

He urged companies to spend on improving our infrastructure, commending SBC for its actions along these lines. SBC today vowed to shell out up to $6bn to build a fiber-optic network that can deliver digital TV. There are those damned TVs again. Powell also demanded that the government avoid regulations that would affect the roll out of VoIP services. If calls can be delivered over the Internet cheaply and with enough competition, then there is no sense is cramming IP networks with regulation.

All in all, Powell fluffed his way through the SuperComm event - not all that surprising for a brief appearance at a trade show. ®

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