Intel's Maloney talks beer and broadband

“They’re two of the most insular places in the United States and they both have a certain arrogance toward each other. But I think they can both learn a great deal from each other, too.”

Intel, along with Sprint Nextel, Google, Comcast and Time Warner, has made a nearly $1 billion bet on Clearwire, a start-up wireless company that is trying to deploy WiMax networks for broadband access across the country. Like its cousin WiFi, the technology will beam wireless Internet access. But unlike WiFi, which blankets a coffee shop or airport, WiMax can cover a 10-mile area, making it a possible solution for connecting rural areas.

“Data usage is doubling every couple of years,” he said. “We need to make lots of spectrum available.”

More spectrum available for WiMax services means more people will be able to use mobile devices to connect to the Internet. And that means more Intel chips will be needed throughout the market for new cell phones, laptops and netbooks.

Maloney said he takes a “more nuanced stance” on net neutrality. “We believe the Internet should be open to every application. The reason people are banging down the door for broadband is because there are all these new, weird applications out there. On the other hand, we believe companies have the right to manage their traffic … Both camps have oversimplified this issue.”

When I asked how he felt about having a fast lane for certain priority traffic for telemedicine, for example, he said he is wary of “over-engineering” the Internet.

Technology that is “good enough,” he said, “is the most underappreciated concept in engineering.”

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Most of the time, Internet traffic gets to its destination without any problems. “Do we really need to super-engineer something to make sure a diagnosis gets to a patient one-billionth of a second sooner? It’s like smashing a nut with a sledgehammer.”

Intel has filed an application for $25 million in broadband stimulus dollars with Connected Nation, hoping to fill in coverage gaps in rural areas.

Peter Cleveland, Intel’s director of global public policy, joined the company nearly a year ago after serving as chief of staff for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Cleveland said Intel mostly supports the current patent reform bill Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is trying to get to the floor, although the company would like to see a few tweaks when the bill goes to conference.

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