Lots of Possibilities With the Right Mindset

Mindset change, new business opportunities and cybersecurity are three terms that describe some of the highlights of last week’s 2015 IP Possibilities conference and trade show. The sessions were terrific and the exhibit floor featured some interesting innovations, but the best part of the show, was the interaction with innovators from around the country. In the near-future, we will point readers to a series of Viodi-produced videos about the event, but, in the meantime, here are some highlights.

David Seda describes his concept of the service provider flop.
David Seda & The Service Provider Flop

Tim Bryan, NRTC CEO, kicked off IP Possibilities with a humorous introduction that one could say was about a completely different mindset than telecom. Flipping the mindset to a customer viewpoint was the theme of David Seda’s entertaining keynote speech. He emphasized the service providers need to develop products from the needs of the customer, instead of leading with the network side of things.

Changing culture to be more nimble, react and create the type of services that customers need, was a common theme, even in panels that were ostensibly about technology. Jeff Leslie, CEO of ITS Fiber, emphasized the importance of bringing on board the right sort of staff when he stated, “Don’t be afraid to hire people you can’t afford.” His point being that knowledgeable, trained people will help retain existing and generate new business that will more than pay for the salaries of those skilled individuals.
There were plenty of ideas on how to create new revenue streams at this two-plus day event. Examples of new revenue services included approaches such as:

  • Using fiber networks and secure local data centers to sell cloud voice and IT Services to local and, with the help of groups like WIN and INDATEL, regional and major corporate businesses
  • Installing and managing Bluetooth Low Energy devices that help businesses and institutions provide information on a micro scale to consumers
  • Creating skinny managed broadband video services that complement over-the-top services and provide a new offering to those consumers who don’t want to pay for a cable package filled with content-owner, required programming.

Regarding content challenges, Tom Whitaker, Vice President, Cable for Shentel, a Virginia-based rural operator said, “They are in the content business and not the customer business.” Whitaker was referring to content providers, whether they are providing their content through the operator or as an over-the-top service.

He also made the important point that content is not just video, but includes customer generated and purchased content, such as email, online documents, music and books. His comment was made in the context of Google and their decision to drop their ISP program and the negative repercussions that will have on the consumer of those services.

Whitaker mentioned that one of the features they liked about Google Apps Partner Edition™ and one of the reasons they moved 20k accounts to that service was its effective spam control. Spam is really a window into the threat posed by cyber criminals and terrorists.

The importance of fighting cybercrime through operators’ adoption of the NIST cybersecurity framework was made clear in an excellent panel moderated by NTCA’s Jesse Ward and featuring the FCC’s Jeff Goldthorp and Silver Star Communications’ CFO Jeff England.

That a CFO gave the presentation indicates that cyber security is primarily a business and process decision and secondarily a technology issue. England discussed how they went about implementing the NIST framework and it started with a commitment from leadership. England’s views were echoed in another excellent session that the seemingly overwhelming NIST framework can be split into baby-sized steps.

The important thing is to get started. Bill Trelease, Vice President/CTO of Delhi Telephone, suggested mapping out one’s network and identifying those customers with critical infrastructure (e.g. hospitals, institutions, etc.) and identifying weak points. In many ways operators will find that they are already doing the things that need to be done and it is the conversations with vendors and customers that will provide the most value in both identifying gaps, as well as opportunities.

Jeff England has found that the process has given them a competitive edge, as customers are becoming more aware of the dangers of cybercrime. Keeping customers’ data on-network (away from the Internet) offers potential new revenue opportunities for operators. Still, as he points out, the government needs to aggressively find and prosecute the people behind cyber crimes.

Stay tuned for links to the video interviews with many of the folks mentioned above, as well as many others who had valuable insights about the possibilities of IP and the opportunities it opens to service providers.

What Is That Gizmo? Is it TV? It's Everywhere.

It’s not unusual to run into someone you know on an airplane. This week when someone I saw at the ACA Summit said they saw me on a Southwest flight a couple of weeks ago, I had to wonder as it had been since January since I had flown Viodi’s corporate jet (aka, SWA). Turns out, he had seen a video segment I had provided to Gizomedia for inclusion on their gizmo video channel, which has appeared in some hotel chains and, now, much to my surprise, on Southwest Airlines.

The show features two enthusiastic, energetic and knowledgable hosts who have an appeal that spans generations. They make insightful comments about the content, which is a mix of editorial and advertorial, and, as the name implies, focuses on gizmos.

Gizmo has a prime position in the Southwest Airlines linear channel offering, which is limited to fewer than 20 channels, is free to the user and features major cable networks, such as HGTV, Cartoon Network and Fox News. Oddly enough, the video player didn’t work on my android devices, but it worked fine in Chrome on a lap-top.

Gizmo sees their programming extending through multiple channels, including physical kiosks, as well  as the aforementioned private networks. One of my broadband operator friends who saw the channel mentioned that this is the type of programming he is looking for to reach younger generations and cord-cutters. So stay tuned for updates on this network that is just taking off.


Google’s Actions Hurt Broadband Rollout, Particularly in Rural America

Lack of relevant content, affordability and digital literacy are the three dominant barriers to the adoption of broadband, according to the World Bank Broadband Strategies Toolkit. The Google Apps Partner Edition™ platform addresses these barriers as it is a relatively low-cost, email/communications/productivity/device management platform. The Google platform has become a platform trusted by tens of millions to manage the cyber aspects of their businesses and their lives, including this publication which has used variations of it since late 2006.

A recent decision by Google that unilaterally changes the way it deals with ISP partnerships jeopardizes that trust, while putting up new barriers to broadband and have some suggesting that Google’s actions are at the heart of the issues that have been brought forward in the Senate Judiciary Committee Net Neutrality hearings. Assuming the ISPs can continue with some variation of the existing program, the approximate ten times cost increase cost makes cable programming price hikes trivial by comparison.

A Brilliant Partnership Strategy

An ISP brochure featuring the benefits of Google Apps.
An ISP brochure featuring the benefits of Google Apps Partner Edition.

To help drive adoption of its platform, Google engaged ISPs and Communications Service Providers, many of which are non-profit, member-owned entities, to be value-added resellers of their Google Apps platform. These operators transitioned their customers from self-hosted or third-party email solutions to the Google Apps platform.

This approach of working with local partners allowed Google to focus on creating and keeping the platform relevant, as indicated in this post from this 2007 Google Blog post by Google product manager, Hunter Middleton:

“From the beginning, we envisioned making Google Apps available to any organization that might want to offer this innovative set of services to its employees, customers, students, members, or any other associates of the organization. Today, we’re excited to take another step in that direction by releasing a version of Google Apps specifically designed for ISPs, portals, and other service providers, whether you have a few thousand subscribers or over a million. This new version, which we’re calling the Partner Edition, makes it easy for large and small service providers to offer your subscribers the latest versions of powerful tools, like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets, without having to worry about hosting, updating, or maintaining any of the services yourself. All you have to do is point and click in the easy admin control panel and figure out what branding you’d like to layer on top of the products in order to create a customized look and feel. You can quit spending your resources and time on applications like webmail — and leave the work to our busy bees at the Googleplex.”

And the strategy worked, as hundreds of ISPs, representing what some estimate to be approximately one million subscribers signed up. By being able to private label the service, the ISPs could offer their customers state-of-the-art, ad-free email, contacts, chat, calendars, online documents, photos and more at an affordable price without having to maintain a costly infrastructure. BEVCOMM”s CEO Bill Eckles stated how it made a difference to his company and  community:

 “BEVCOMM has been using their [Google’s] platform through a 3rd party integrator for a couple of years.  We switched from managing our email platform in-house to Google’s platform because of their reputation for being incredibly reliable.  As a very small company we simply didn’t have the resources to manage a platform ourselves with the reliability people demand from email.”

With Google focusing on software, the ISP’s could focus on educating customers on how to use the many features inherent in the Google Apps products. These customers included not only residential, but schools and small businesses who appreciated the assistance that only an operator with local presence can provide. These ISPs essentially serve as the local, outsourced IT staff, freeing up resources of the small businesses to focus on their services and products.

In an email exchange, Kurt Gruendling, VP of Marketing for WCVT, a family owned, Vermont rural communications company explained how he and his colleague taught classes to more than 1,000 customers:

“I’m a big advocate for the platform and I think the Google Apps platform is very powerful and have spent a considerable amount of time teaching “Google School” classes to our customers many of whom would have never used Google Apps.  We have taught over 50 on site classes and webinars throughout our territory over the past 18 months with more than 1,000 customers attending and leading them to the value of the core services in the platform that go way beyond mail.”

Kurt Gruendling teaching how to use Google Apps to rural customers
Kurt Gruendling teaching rural customers how to use Google Apps.

In addition to its investment in marketing and training, the ISP pays Google for the ongoing cost to maintain the service. The costs are variable, which is a benefit to the ISP, as they don’t have to make large upfront investments in servers and software. This allows the ISP to focus on providing higher-speed and more reliable bandwidth to their customers by bringing fiber deeper into the last-mile network, which is important for the cloud-based, Google Apps platform. Ironically, many of these rural operators deployed Fiber to the Home (FTTH) bef ore Google’s move into that business in certain urban markets, such as Kansas City, Austin and Provo.

For those operators that were too small to deal directly with Google, at least two Google Apps Partner Edition™ integrators emerged to help; Ikano and NeoNova, a subsidiary of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. These aggregators not only helped the operators, but they helped get the word out about the Google Apps Partner Edition™ and aggressively marketed it and successfully signed up ISPs throughout the country, such  as the aforementioned WCVT

10X Increase in Cost – If You Can Get It

Things were going swimmingly for the operators and their customers, then, in early 2014, operators found out that Google has plans to significantly alter its relationship with ISPs in 2015. This was a surprise and is causing operators to scramble to come up with alternative solutions. The solutions aren’t going to be simple or inexpensive, however.

One person commenting with a Google Forum suggested that he sees the following alternatives as summarized below:

  1. Audit our email accounts to reduce the number as much as possible. Migrate the accounts to Google Apps for Business, which would be about 10 times the cost [from $0.35 to approx. $3-$4 per month that this operator is currently paying Google] per email account. Pass this cost on to consumers and prepare for a backlash.
  2. Migrate to another solution

Based on comments from operators both in private exchanges with this author and on the aforementioned Google Forum, it is unclear whether Google Apps for Business will even be available to all ISPs.

The increased cost cited above actually is much higher on a per household basis, as the costs are on a per email account basis, so the cost to the ISP for a typical residential broadband account with 5 included email accounts would jump to $16.50 per month.

The other alternative is to switch providers. There are rumblings that some providers are looking at alternatives, such as Atmail (which interestingly just opened a U.S. office), [added 10/16/14] Hyperoffice, Microsoft Office 365, [Added 10/17/14] OX, Zimbra or Zoho. Still, there are concerns about the migration and, as WCVT’s Gruendling points out, it isn’t clear whether all of a customers “paid for” content will successfully transition, as there isn’t a one-for-one replacement for Google’s excellent product.

“There is a date when Google will delete end-user data, including documents, pictures, videos and paid-for content.”

An ISP promoting Google Apps with a prominent place on their web site.
An ISP prominently promoting Google Apps on its web site.

In addition to the higher direct ongoing costs that, in the end, will be passed on to the consumer, there will also be the costs associated with making the transition. One forum commenter suggesting it could take 1 to 2 staff to focus on the transition. This is a real opportunity cost for operators with a small staffs and it means they have fewer resources for helping customers and building their broadband networks.

Bill Eckles, CEO of MN-based, rural telecommunications provider, BEVCOMM, suggested that experience suggests the transition will be challenging:

“Now that Google has decided they don’t want to maintain this program we are going to be forced to move all of our customers. The markets BEVCOMM serves are generally more rural and less affluent than [those served by] larger companies.  Every time we switch email platforms it is a major undertaking trying to support our customers through the move.  The last time we switched platforms 3,000 email customers opted to switch to another option not offered by BEVCOMM.”

It will be a hassle for the consumers, as it will mean reconfiguration of mail clients on PCs, phones and tablets. Special care will be necessary for the ISP’s business customers who are dealing with confidential information and regulatory compliance issues (e.g. HIPAA).

And since this transition includes documents, photos and paid-for content, it will be even more complex than the transition that the ISPs made to move their existing email systems to Google’s platforms. And many of these providers are still recovering from that move, which, for some, occurred less than a year ago.

Google – Rural America Is Calling

In a letter to Senator Leahy, WCVT characterized this as an issue of rural/urban and big/small and that the conversation will cause a multi-million dollar support issue that will affect the operators, as well as Google.

Bill Eckles of Bevcomm reinforced WCVT’s comments when he stated in an email:

“Switching email platforms is a major disruption for our customers, who really at the end of the day are Google’s customers. As far as I know Google didn’t even bother asking for input from any of the companies who are offering their email.  This experience has really shown Google doesn’t seem to care about rural consumers.”

A WCVT service vehicle in rural Vermont about to cover a historic covered bridge.
A WCVT service vehicle in rural Vermont about to cover a historic covered bridge.

One of the big frustrations for the ISPs is that they haven’t been given a reason the program, which these  ISPs want to keep, is being unilaterally changed by Google. They have made suggestions for compromise solutions, but have been unable to discuss with any of the Google staff responsible for the offering.

This action also seemingly runs counter to Google’s initiatives to make broadband ubiquitous, as its ISP partners are deploying Fiber to the Home in rural markets where Google will not be able to reach with its last-mile, fiber network.

WCVT, in its letter to Senator Leahy, provides a voice to its rural ISP brethren with its desire to meet with Google.

“We are requesting a meeting with Google decision-makers with authority and vision to establish a reasonable course of action. We need the chance, on behalf of our consumers, to sit down and discuss the impacts of this decision and to seek to work with Google to find alternative solutions rather than just having the plug pulled on us.”

These providers want to work with Google and one service provider holds out hope that those who came to rely on Google to provide critical content for their broadband networks will be able to come up with a solution that works for all parties:

“There has to be a better solution. We are committed to working with Google and hope that they don’t turn their back on rural America.”

[Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, Google has not yet provided an official response to this article, explaining why they changed the Google Apps Partner Edition™ program.]

[Added 03/25/15 & 10/16/14] Links to exclusive ViodiTV interviews with operators discussing the impact of Google’s actions on their operations and their customers:

Catherine Moyer, GM of Pioneer Communications, discussing their use of Google Apps at the 2014 NTCA Fall Conference.
Donnie Miller explains how Pioneer Telephone was blindsided by Google.
Catherine Moyer, GM of Pioneer Communications, discussing their use of Google Apps at the 2014 NTCA Fall Conference.
Catherine Moyer, GM of Pioneer Communications, discusses the impact of Google’s actions.
Kurt Gruendling of WCVT displays the Smart Rural Community road sign symbolizing the award his company received from NTCA at their 2014 Fall Conference.
Kurt Gruendling, WCVT VP of Marketing and Business Development discusses impact of Google’s actions.

Viodi View – 05/12/14

Operational and incremental improvements using cable television infrastructure as a wireless network and as an enabler of the Internet of Things were big themes of the recent four-day Cable Show confab in Los Angeles. Although 4K was prominent in multiple booths and displays at the conference, much to my surprise, there were no blockbuster announcements from any of the major TV networks announcing 4K programming. Most likely alternative sources of content will prime the market for Ultra High Definition, as can be seen in the ViodiTV exclusive video in the Korner.

Innovation of Things at the Cable Show 2014

An image of the Internet of Things display at the Cable Show 2014.
Click to view

“Everybody’s looking to innovate,” said Matt Polka of the American Cable Association. Polka explains that innovation surrounding the cable broadband ecosystem was one of the themes of the 2014 Cable Show. He stresses that innovation is an important element to giving consumers’ what they want; whether that is new ways of viewing content or apps that help make for a smarter home. The following interview with Polka features video highlights of various demonstrations, exhibits and other highlights of the Cable Show.

Click here to view and read more.

Rural America Needs Advanced Services & Competition by Gene South

Snapshot of U.S. broadband from broadbandmap.gov
Click to read more

It is an honor to publish a two-part article from Gene South, a leader in the independent telco industry for a number of years. In part one,  he outlines how the view of the telecom industry changed from one of a regulated monopoly to one where competition is encouraged. In part two, he looks at the post AT&T break-up and the importance of rural citizens at the local level being able to determine their broadband destiny.

Open Video Rules Make BB a Reality for the Unserved

Ken Pyle interviews Gary Johnson of Paul Bunyan Communications at the 2014 MTA.
Click to view

An entity that has its ear to the consumer in rural Minnesota is Paul Bunyan Communications. They have almost tripled in size since the turn of the century by aggressively expanding outside their traditional service area to serve customers where incumbents had not kept up with market needs for broadband and video service. Using a little-employed federal law they have been able to work with Minnesota Townships to expand their service with fewer barriers than traditional regulatory structures.

Click here to view and read more.

Ethernet Tech Summit Reveals Many Paths to “Open SDN” by Alan Weissberger

One expert's solution to the multiple flavors of SDN: Overlays Complete Virtualization
Click to read more.

[Editor’s Note: After giving some thought to Alan Weissberger’s cogent analysis on the state of Software Defined Networking, perhaps the SDN acronym should stand for Still Don’t kNow (apologies to whoever invented the acronym I Still Don’t Know – which many suggested was the answer to the question of the market for ISDN back in the early 1990s). Weissberger makes the case that, despite several efforts to create “open” standards, there is potential for vendor lock-in around SDN and that there are issues of compatibility and single points of failure that point to multiple flavors of SDN.]

Click here to read and to contribute to the discussion on his article.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • “One of the most effective tools for ensuring Internet openness is competition,” FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler recently stated. Competition in the last mile is critical to ensuring not only cost-competitive, but innovative broadband offerings. Some other commentary on the upcoming Net Neutrality discussion can be found here.
  • Good article point-counter-point about net neutrality in Monday’s WSJ. Local barriers are often the difference between a duopoly and multiple competitors; at least in urban areas.
  • Also kudos to Brett Sappington of Parks Associates for his piece in that same WSJ section arguing that it is too early to buy a 4K TV.
  • At the cable show, a respected cable operator expressed the same concerns about new LTE-Unlicensed having the potential to relegate WiFi to second-class status. Click here for the Light Reading article on this topic.
  • Create, not cover the conversation. Need to provide reason for new generation to come to cable & their goal is for to help.
  • Twitter changed the game – immediate audience feedback. Don’t need to wait for Nielsen
  • “Cable collectively is already the largest wireless operator” [in terms of bits transmitted over unlicensed WiFi]. Interesting statement made by one of the cable executives; haven’t had a chance to verify. 

The Korner – The World’s Biggest Art Museum – In Your Hand

Ken Pyle interviews Sheldon Laube of Artkick with the Monalisa painting in the background.
Click to view

The ephihany from the 2013 Cable Show was that some of the first successful content for 4K will come from sources other than the traditional video networks. One of the things that intrigued me about Artkick when they reached out to me at CES is that they are creating a channel that could easily offer compelling 4K content.+  Artkick’s approach of viewing black screens as something more than TV has a potentially big impact on the way screens are viewed in the home.

Click here to read more and to view.

Viodi View – 06/20/13

Were there any surprises at last week’s cable show? Probably not, as what was demonstrated represents what has been shown for decades in proof-of-concepts, trials and even limited commercial rollouts of interactive television approaches from Qube to Videoway to the Full Service Network. The revolutionary thing about last week’s conference is that now the technologies, the associated cost and ecosystems and the customer appear to be ready to make the future the present.

On the Road… At the Cable Show

An image of the opening of the 2013 Cable Show.
Click to View Video

Service providers of all types are transforming from physical infrastructure companies to software companies, and cable operators are no different. This is the sense one was left with at the 2013 Cable Show. This three-day event, held in Washington D.C., provided operators and its association the opportunity to showcase this transformation from pipe providers to owners of a bandwidth ecosystem that is a platform for a variety of home-grown as well as complementary and, potentially even, competing third-party applications from over-the-top providers. Thanks Calix for picking up this post.

Click here to read more and view the video.

From Video to Broadband – Regulations Need to Catch Up

Ken Pyle interviews Matt Polka at the 2013 Cable Show.
Click to View Video

“Our members are moving from being cable video companies to broadband Internet companies,” said Matt Polka president and CEO of the American Cable Association (ACA). He was reflecting upon the how the business has shifted from video to broadband-centric services. His concern is that ACA members also need to have access to the same technology, on display at the 2013 Cable Show, afforded to the larger providers. Polka points out how his members maximize the use of their resources, as they make up for their relatively small size with nimbleness and resourcefulness.

Click here to read more and view the video.

The Voice Remote Control – A Trojan Horse in the Living Room

Comcast's Voice Remote is demonstrated in this video at the Cable Show.
Click to View Video

The voice-enabled remote control may become one of those 10 year overnight successes. The definition of success may be the question, as adding this piece of hardware as part of the user interface ecosystem may have far-reaching impacts beyond the obvious benefit of finding better content and finding it faster. Click here to read more and to see an exclusive video overview of Comcast’s XR11 voice-controlled, remote control.

Nailing the Content Search & Discovery Experience

Ken Pyle interviews Comcast's Amit Bagga regarding the challenges of developing the TV User Interface.
Click to View Video

“There is a significant initiative (about 200 people working on the challenge) at Comcast in terms of making it easier to find content that they want to watch,” said Amit Bagga, Chief Scientist, Search and Discovery, Technology & Product Development for Comcast. In this interview, Bagga suggested that maintaining the lean-back experience of watching TV, while making it easy to find the content they want to watch, is the goal.

Click here to view.

Analyst Opinions on Cisco’s CRS-X Core Router & Its Impact on Competitors by Alan Weissberger

The Cisco® CRS-X, which will be available this year, is a 400 Gigabit per second (Gbps) per slot core router system that can be expanded to nearly 1 petabit per second in a multi-chassis deployment. The CRS-X provides 10 times the capacity of the original CRS-1, which was introduced in 2004 as a new class of core routing system designed to scale network capacity to accommodate the proliferation in video, data and mobile traffic, which has taken place over the last decade.

Click here to read the opinions of analysts, including Alan Weissberger’s unique insight.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • “It is a momentous development,” according to Covington & Burling LLP, regarding last week’s amendments to the Mexican Constitution that is expected to lead to broad changes in Mexico’s telecom and broadcast sectors. Expanded competition, broadband and openness is anticipated. Paul Maxwell hinted about these changes and the potential impact to must-carry/retransmission rule in Mexico in this interview earlier in the year. Amazing how fast this idea worked its way through Mexico’s body politic.
  • A&E’s Saban: “Technology influences the nature of the content; for the better” #cable13
  • Disney’s Sweeney: “Consumer has taken control & not giving it back” talking about expectations for content on multiple screens. #cable13
  • Advice to operators from opening panel: Adopt agile development processes & learn to “fail quickly” #cable13

The Korner – A Nice Lasting Impression of the 2013 Cable Show

Ken Pyle interviews Janice Arouh of ESN at the 2013 ACA Summit.
Click Video to View

In the previous issue of the Viodi View, I wondered what would be my final impression of the 2013 Cable Show. Similar to the 2006 show, a programmer left an imprint – a more positive one than the 2006 show – an imprint that will stay with me. The kindness of Janice Arouh of programmer ESN will be remembered as her offer of a ride ensured I got to the airport in time and relieved some of the stress associated with my normal seat-of-the-pants travel.

I had met Janice at the 2013 ACA Summit and it was great to see her at the Cable Show. In this interview,  Arouh discusses the independent suite of networks that comprise ESN. What is different about ESN is they produce and distribute the content that populates their eight channels. By controlling the entire chain of copyright, they have the rights to provide the content to any screen; as Arouh says, “A 360 degree view.”

Click here to read more and view the video.

Viodi View – 06/07/13

After a seven-year absence, it is exciting to return to The Cable Show next week in Washington D.C. With speakers ranging from Jennifer Lopez to the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, this conference will provide a broad and in-depth view of both content and technology. The stories in this issue of the Viodi View provide a preview of what will be seen at next week’s show and how content and technology have become intertwined.

“TV Everywhere” Gaining Market Traction with Live Linear added to VoD by Alan Weissberger

Click to read more
Click to read more

“TV Everywhere (TVE)” services have begun to pick up momentum among programmers and pay-TV providers, according to some industry executives who have seen a surge of interest among subscribers, especially on major stories such as the recent Boston bombing and its aftermath shown on CNN. Click here to read more.

A Cooperative Using Its Roots to Help Out with IPTV

Ken Pyle interviews Corey McCarthy of NCTC at the 2013 ACA Summit.
Click to view video

Ubiquitous delivery of video via IP is what allows cable and telco operators to offer the multiscreen video services. In the above interview, Corey McCarthy of NCTC discusses their efforts to create a converged IPTV platform that could be used by any of its 400+ telco operator members as well as the hundreds of cable operators that comprise the NCTC membership. The crowdsourced process he describes for evaluating the technologies takes advantage of the power of a distributed membership, while providing the scale necessary to achieve significant cost savings for those very same members. Click here to view.

From Capture to Screen & Everything in Between

Ken Pyle interviews MobiTV executives at NAB 2013
Click to view video

“Delivering Television, particularly live television, to non-traditional screens is extraordinarily complex, said MobiTV’s CSO, Rick Herman. Herman discusses the challenges of delivering television to multiple screens in the above interview. Cedric Fernandes, MobiTV CTO, joins in and describes what they are doing as an open IPTV platform; one where content could flow over a managed or unmanaged (e.g., OTT) networks. Click here to view.

MVPD-Driven BroadbandTV

Ken Pyle interviews Paul Woidke of NAGRA at CONNECTIONS at CTIA.
Click to view video

A year can make a big difference in the world of technology rollouts; at least between 2012 and 2013. Paul Woidke of NAGRA/OpenTV points out how many of the developments around broadband TV are now being driven by the MVPDs, as compared to earlier when Over-The-Top providers were pushing the envelope. Woidke points out that the cable operators are integrating broadband TV as part of their overall product offering that they can sell to advertisers. Woidke points out that the business models will have to evolve to support the creation of content that people want to watch. Click here to view.

The Advent of Ultra High Definition TV

An example of a 4K television on sale in May 2013; they are real.
4K TV at Retail

A new generation of television is here. Designed to leave current HD TVs in the dust, 4K televisions showed up in force at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year and the associated production equipment was demonstrated at April’s National Association of Broadcasters’ Convention. As amazing as these televisions are, some question whether consumers will be able to afford them and how many will even be interested after only recently upgrading to HD. So what is 4K and is the product worthy of the hype? Click here to read more.

2013 TiECon- Part 3: Software Defined Infrastructure Presentations & Panels by Alan Weissberger

Software Defined Network is shown with OpenFlow control.
Image courtesy of IBM

In this third and final article on the information packed 2013 TiECon, we summarize key messages from the second half of the SDI (Software Defined Infrastructure) Track on May 17th, including the afternoon keynote and two panel sessions. The first article covered all the TiECon opening keynotes. The second article summarized the invited SDI presentations from the morning of May 17th. Click here to read more of this article, as well as the very informative interaction in the comments section below the article.

Some Tweets and Short Random Thoughts:

  • Looks like Broadband Service Providers have an ally with regards to patent troll concerns, as indicated by this quote from Bill Hughes, senior vice president for government affairs of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), when he said, “We welcome President Obama’s focus on this important issue. Increasingly, retailers are forced to defend themselves against infringement suits simply for using off-the-shelf products that incorporate patented technology. The prospect of costly litigation to resolve even the most dubious of claims enables patent trolls to generate settlements that neither reflect the intent of the law nor the actual value of their claims. Meaningful action must be taken to reign in this abusive practice.”
  • An excerpt from a recent Apple patent application, echos what we were trying to do at ZillionTV, “For example, watching ads could result in getting “tokens” that are redeemable for offsetting your mobile carrier costs, or even providing them completely for free.”  One former ZillionTV colleague indicated he would “be surprised if they get all these claims….I saw lots of these components working years ago.”
  • Meanwhile, TiVo reports that is, “has agreed to enter into certain patent licensing arrangements with Arris, Cisco, and Google. As part of the settlement, Google and Cisco will pay TiVo an upfront lump-sum payment of $490 million, bringing the total from awards and settlements related to the use of certain TiVo intellectual property to roughly $1.6 billion.”

The Korner – My Final Impression of the Last Cable Show I attended

A clever advertisement at the 2006 Cable Show.
An Ad That Made a Lasting Impression

It is amazing how sometimes the most trivial and most unimportant things can make an impression. Great advertising is that which makes the imprint that one remembers 40 years later. Clearly, those images from our childhood may be the most vivid; hence why there are limits regarding advertising to children (who out there still remembers cigarette commercial jingles).

The final image from the last cable show I attended left an impression on me. The advertisement was in an unusual place and I literally found it on my last stop of the last day as I was leaving the convention center. Although it was an image that will probably be forever etched in my mind, for some reason I felt compelled to film this unusual pitch and share it with the world. Since, then at least 1,000 other people have also seen what caught my attention.

It will be interesting to see what makes a lasting impression at this year’s Cable Show. Click here to read more and to view the video.

Viodi View – 02/15/13

Disruption in the Smart Home

Tom Kerber of Parks Associates discusses some of the things he saw at CES 2013 relating to the Smart Home.It is just getting started, but there already many alternatives for the consumer to create a smart home experience. Tom Kerber of Parks Associates points out that many of the smart home developments shown at International CES are from upstart companies that have devices and don’t necessarily rely on service revenue. An an example, he mentions a connected oven that includes a full audio and video system. He calls it a very exciting time, in terms of new product introduction. It will be great to catch up with Tom and the rest of the Parks Associates team at the Smart Energy Summit, February 25th to 27th.

To get a preview of that event, click here to watch the interview with Tom from CES 2013.

North to Alaska – Broadband Around the 49th State

Terry Nidiffer discusses GCI's efforts to wire rural Alaska.Alaska is a state like no other in terms of geographic size, topography, climate and low population density. In this interview, filmed at the 2012 ACA Convention, Terry Nidiffer of GCI descirbes GCI’s aggressive efforts to bring more reliable and faster broadband by replacing satellite back haul with a combination of microwave and fiber to reach underserved areas through a project they call TERRA. Click here to view and read more.

We will be looking for Nidiffer to give us an update in a couple of weeks at ACA’s 2013 Summit in Washington D.C.

Fiber to the Island

An image of the business newsletter that Home Telecom uses to help businesses on Daniel Island.From Alaska, we travel to Charleston, SC, where we were honored to catch up with Daniel Island Company president, Matthew Sloan. A 2007 recipient of the Urban Land Institute’s prestigious “Awards for Excellence”, Daniel Island is a national model of smart growth and a Fiber to the Home network is integral to its success. Sloan, describes their vision to create a distinct community, while serving as an extension of Charleston, South Carolina. Twenty years later, with some 3,000 residences, scores of businesses and 8,000+ people, Daniel Island is delivering on its promise to Charleston. Click here to view and read more.

From Online Video Platform to National Videographer Network

One of BizVision's videographers filming a medical continuing education seminar.Finding enough revenue streams to cover the fixed costs associated with a local content production is often a challenge for independent operators that are also producers of local content. BizVision, a privately held, Crocker Ventures backed company, looks like it could offer operators a couple of new revenue opportunities. In the past few years, BizVision’s platform has gained good traction in the professional education space and they are now moving into a complementary space by creating a national network of videographers. Click here to read more [Club Viodi Members]

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • Excellent resource website from FTTH Council. Example of its excellence is this white paper from Paula Chenchar Hänus of OmniTel Communications discussing the importance of corporate culture to FTTH success.
  • Interesting statistic from Federal Reserve study cited by FCC in its press release regarding its efforts with HUD to improve digital literacy, “…students with a PC and broadband at home have six to eight percentage point higher graduation rates than similar students who don’t have home access to the Internet.”
  • Pretty cool if this can be made practical for FTTN applications. It would represent the ultimate in optical isolation. One would think it would eliminate lightening issues with ONTs, as well providing lifeline power via the fiber (or, would it be called “lightline” power).

The Korner – Exercising the Brain with a Subscription Model

Dan Michel of Dakim Brain Fitness discusses their unique brain exercise program.Dakim Brain Fitness demonstrated the consumer version of their product at International CES 2013. Dan Michel advocates for exercising the brain for all people who are over 50. His product has been used by health-care professionals for years. At the consumer level, in March, they will be introducing a subscription model, where anyone can access the program from the comfort of their home.

As he points out, their service could be part of a broadband provider’s bundle and that it could be adapted to broadband or TV. Michel’s background is from the entertainment industry (e.g., Columbia Pictures), so he understands the importance of entertainment in keeping people engaged in what could otherwise be boring activities. He suggests their therapy creates new neurons and synapses, which build a cognitive reserve, helping to fight off effects of cognitive decline.

Click here to view.

Viodi View – 01/18/13

IOT – the Internet of Things is a hot buzzword and understandably so, given that we are on the cusp of an explosion of low-cost sensing capabilities. As suggested in a Forbes article, combining ubiquitous sensing and ubiquitous telecommunications will create a planet-wide, central nervous system. This sort of inter-connectivity was evident in many of the products and services demonstrated at last week’s International CES.

An image from the floor at CES.
Image from the floor at CES

Putting the “P” in CES

The International CES used to be called the Consumer Electronics Show, but in many ways it is probably appropriate that the CEA removed the term Consumer from the name. This show is so big, that it is easy to have expectations of huge announcements that immediately transform society. What excites me, however, are the incremental developments that offer the potential to improve the quality of life and make for a better world; instead of the C standing for consumer, perhaps the focus should be on P for people. Click here to view the Viodi summary video of this big event.

An image of the protected web site for ViodiTV CES video coverage.
CES Coverage Web Site

More CES Videos

  • Interesting interview, filmed and edited by Viodi, with Michael Strobers of Turner talking about how they are using 2nd screen to create richer stories. Using Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) systems they see the 2nd screen as a way to strengthen their relationships with sponsors and viewers.
  • Need content for your local content operation? We have a number of interviews and demonstrations from CES that could fit with a local technology show. Contact us at documonials@viodi.com for licensing information.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • Here is TV – Bruce Eisen’s latest venture provides a straightforward way to help viewers filter through thousands of television shows. Delivered as a daily email, this could be an interesting add-on service for operators wanting to simplify the customer experience.
  • Thanks Erin for organizing the great Raynet reunion last night. It was fun to catch up and turn the gears of time back 20 years and talk of what was, what is and what ifs (If Murph and I only had pursued the pizza and movie delivery service back then, instead of going down the VOD path……). Best of all, it was great to reconnect with some of the people who are part of the thread of a lifetime.
  • More Spectrum – everything you wanted to know about the reverse auctions for the broadcast spectrum can be found at this new FCC web site. –
  • Internet of Things – Turkcell reports a 5% water usage reduction because of Machine to Machine monitoring and control to the 1,200 businesses in the Kocaeli region of Turkey. They are planning to expand monitoring of this precious commodity to the residences in the area.

The Korner – Fiber to an Unusual Place

The image shows an ONT on the side of a building.
Fiber to an Unusual Place

Channeling our inner Bob Eubanks, a question we often asked service providers last year was, “Where was the most unusual place you have deployed fiber optics?” One of the more interesting answers was from Home Telecom’s Will Helmly who described their fiber to the septic tank project. We were lucky enough to capture the essence of that project in an interview with him.

This was the first of several videos we edited for Home Telecom and that have been published on Home Telecom’s YouTube channel. First and foremost the stories from Home Telecom, like so many other locally owned telecom companies, are about the importance of having people in the community to make things happen. As shown by this Fiber to the Septic tank story, the Internet of Things may be ready, but it still needs people and their vision to bring the IoT to life.

Click here to read more and view the video.

Viodi View – 07/13/12

The FCC’s 901 Auction (Mobility Fund Phase 1 reverse auction) is less than three months away and yesterday was the filing deadline for applications.  There many unserved places in the U.S that need mobile and fixed broadband, as shown in this interactive FCC map.  Bringing mobile to these areas will hopefully have the side benefit of bringing lower cost middle mile broadband to barely served areas.  There may be some unique partnerships to bring broadband and its benefits to citizens, particularly in rural locales.

A Cooperative Smart Grid Infrastructure

Smart Meter & Network

Cooperation among infrastructure providers, particularly in rural areas, offers a potential for improving efficiency and creating the opportunity for new revenue sources. In this interview, Ralph Dunn of McMinnville Electric System, describes the combination Wi-Fi and fiber network that is the underpinning of the nascent McMinnville Electric System Smart Grid. Click here to view.

Amazon Smart Phone Coming in 2012 May Challenge Carrier Model by Alan Weissberger

Amazon is said to be actively developing a smart phone that would present a direct challenge to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android devices.  Two sources close to the project say the Amazon smart phone would essentially serve as an extension of the Amazon Kindle Fire – the  hugely successful tablet e-reader offering  (this author has a Kindle Fire and is mostly satisfied with it). Click here to read Weissberger’s analysis.

Beware of the Unforeseen Competitor – Still

Alan Weissberger’s article on the Amazon Smart Phone reminds me of a Viodi View post from several years ago regarding the unforeseen competitor.  As mentioned in this article from 2005, the unforeseen competitor could be from a big box retailer or, as Alan points out, Amazon.  Or, a current example of an unforeseen competitor is Valero’s promotion to give away a movie (via Red Box) or an MP3  with a purchase of a 44 ounce soda. Click here to read more.

A “Jinni” to Find “I Dream of Jeannie” and more

Yosi Glick – Jinni

The shortcomings of the traditional television grid guide is what drove Yosi Glick’s push to find a better way for people to discover content. Jinni’s approach uses algorithms to extract meaning from the synopsis of television shows. With 2,200 tags, their genome approach creates a user-centric guide. Click here to watch the interview and find out why providers, like Swisscom, are turning to Jinni to help their customers find content.

The Korner – Communications Needed on the Road Less Traveled

A car or cell tower nowhere to be found
A car or cell tower nowhere to be found

The road less traveled is Highway 6, starting in eastern California and traversing the mid-section of Nevada.  Although its neighbor highway to the North, Highway 50, was deemed the “Loneliest Road in America,” the two-lane ribbon of seemingly endless asphalt that is Highway 6 really deserves that moniker.  The condition of the road is great, but what is lacking is the complementary communications nervous system, so common along the Interstate system. The lack of wired or wireless network could mean life or death for the stranded motorist, as this author recently discovered.

Click here to read more and what this story has to do with the upcoming FCC 901 Auction.

A Honeymoon Period for Brands on Facebook

Although it states the obvious, as Jeremy Toeman pointed out in a tweet this morning, an AdWeek article about the results of a recent survey of Facebook users has some good pearls of wisdom  for independent communications companies wanting to create a fan base via Facebook.    

The people most likely to be supporters of a Facebook brand site are those people who already like and/or use a product. Getting people to a Facebook site is important, but to engage them one has to make them feel important.

"……And once there, fans expect more than downloadable coupons. Rather, they want to feel more like a VIP who can access exclusive content, information about new products and yes, promotional offers, before the general public can, DDB discovered."

As with a web site, the article points out that a brand's Facebook page has to remain fresh and relevant, even to the big supporters of a brand. The article cautions that creating and maintaining a Facebook presence is not trivial.

The presentation from DDB provides interesting statistics not referenced in the article. For instance, the fact that, on average, users spend 55 minutes per day on Facebook is a proof-point to the comment made by Mark Cuban that Facebook is the web for some people. Half of the 500 million users log-on at least once per day. The presentation defines “Earned media”, which is content created by the user community that promotes a brand.

One conclusion from the survey is that, “Until the novelty wears out, brands seem to have nothing to loose (sic) by creating a fanpage.” The report suggests that if users don’t find an official fan page, then they might join an unofficial page. Brands also have to carefully manage publishing frequency, while creating compelling content that resonates with their fans.  61% of the people survey who had unsubscribed or hid a brand on their newsfeed cited the aforementioned reasons. Only 32% of those who unsubscribed did so because they were no longer interested in the brand. 

One way to get around the challenge of keeping Facebook content current and compelling, as well as solve the challenge of not being able to control the data uploaded to Facebook (granted, Facebook has added hooks to allow one to export his data), is to post content on the brand's web site and have it trigger Facebook messages. Still, as it implies in the article and in the commentary, the definition of success will be keeping your current fans engaged and occasionally picking up other fans through the increased exposure that this supplemental online outlet provides.