Viodi View – 08/09/2014

Computer on top of a Prius optimized for best WiFi reception.
Optimized WiFi Reception

“High speed and reliable broadband is becoming as essential as water and electricity,” to paraphrase what I heard last week from a general manager of a provider that offers all three of those services. I have had many opportunities to reflect on those comments, as my travels since then took me to the Southwestern U.S. where water and broadband are often in short supply. Continue to bottom of this newsletter to read some of the random thoughts from someone who was broadband starved over the past week.


FCC Acts to Improve Rural Broadband Service with $100M Fund- Census Blocks Released by Alan Weissberger

An image of Redwood Estates, an area of Silicon Valley that has some high-cost broadband locations.
Click to read more

Roughly 10% of the U.S., mostly in remote rural areas, is eligible to take advantage of $100 million the Federal Communications Commission is allocating for improvements in rural broadband service.  The FCC this week released a list of the U.S. Census blocks that would qualify for a piece of the $100 million fund the agency created earlier this month. Interestingly, there are several locations in the county of Santa Clara, home to Silicon Valley, that are unserved and potentially eligible to receive support.

Click here to read more.


Network Neutrality is Dead: Netflix deal with AT&T; VZ Throttling- FCC? by Alan Weissberger

Netflix announced last week that it had agreed to pay AT&T for a direct “peering” connection to AT&T’s network. The two companies arranged the deal this past May and have been working since then to connect their respective networks. AT&T had been pressing Netflix to pay for an upgraded connection between their networks since at least March when Netflix asked for a free peering arrangement.

Click here to read more.


Lights, Set-Top, Action

An image of the CableLabs NCTA 2014 Cable Show demonstration of an Internet of Things demonstration showing how lights can be controlled by a set-top based on the content being viewed.
Click to view

What happens when you mix a home lighting system with a set-top box? Clark Stevens of CableLabs demonstrates this unlikely convergence of the so-called Internet of Things and how CableLabs envisions being able to help cable operators create applications that marry these two disparate “things” into a better experience for the consumer (e.g. viewer hits the play button on the remote and then the lights dim).

Click here to view.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • Wow, if this idea turns into legislation it would remove the operator as middleman and seemingly end blackouts and retransmission disputes.
  • @MATTatACA Financial Panel — I still remember the guy from last year’s panel I thought kept saying, “content craters…” Cre-A-tors! 🙂
  • Roger Bindl gets a bird’s-eye view – filming from a bucket truck.
  • Frank Chindamo’s latest venture brings his comedy to the room. Great idea.

The Korner – Random Notes from a Summertime Journey Through the Southwest

An image of human shadows on a wall of the Grand Canyon.
Ancient petroglyph???

The great thing about portable electronics and broadband is that one can work anywhere or anytime. This isn’t necessarily a good thing if one is trying to recharge and disconnect from work. Of course, my work with Viodi isn’t really work, as it is fun and its impossible to turn off thinking about the next issue of the Viodi View.

Here are some of my observations from my week-long journey to the 4 corners and beyond.

  • Reception of WiFi was extremely poor inside the car. Had to move the lap-top outside the car for adequate reception.
    WiFi using Comcast hot spot.

    Operators need creative ways to convince owners of 2nd homes to sign up for broadband. A part-timer plan was highlighted in the previous issue of the Viodi View as one such way. Based on my experience with my brother-in-law, another approach would be to bundle broadband into something like a home monitoring service, specifically designed for second home owners.

  • As it was, the 4G wireless hot spot, that my brother-in-law thought was broadband, didn’t meet the needs of someone who had to upload several 100+ Megabyte video files over the course of several days. As a work-around, one morning, I did pay the equivalent of $70/month for a decent broadband connection (with a free cup of coffee as a bonus). This wasn’t ideal, as, besides being against my inherent thriftiness, the coffee shop wasn’t open late at night when I wanted to upload the files.
  • This gave me a chance to use the Comcast app to locate their WiFi hotspots. The app identified multiple businesses which had Comcast hotspots where I could “roam” without an extra charge.
  • Computer on top of a Prius optimized for best WiFi reception.
    Optimized WiFi Reception

    It was difficult to receive the signal outside the business (the hot spots were most likely built into the indoor, Comcast-supplied cable modem/wireless routers). This meant placing the laptop next to a business’ window or, in the case when my car was my portable office space, the laptop had to be placed on top of the car to avoid the shield effects of a big metal container. Properly positioned, the WiFi connection worked great.

  • The Comcast app shows the name of the business and address of the business. It also showed the name and address of one location that looked to be that of a resident. Although the information provided really isn’t any different than what one would find in a telephone directory, one has to wonder if the average consumer realizes their information will be included in an app for the public to see.
  • T-Mobile’s coverage is inferior compared to its competitors in rural America. This is something observed from years of traveling with colleagues who have AT&T and Verizon and was reinforced by the lack of coverage found on this trip. With the Sprint merger off the table, perhaps one approach is for T-Mobile to partner once again (like they did years ago in Iowa) with small carriers and others to give them coverage and feet on the street in rural America.
  • Meanwhile, with a new CEO, what will Sprint do? Will Sprint land back in the arms of the cable operators that helped give birth to its wireless operation some two decades ago? Will they, as Alan Weissberger asks, focus on being a carrier’s carrier?
  • An image of a Google Fiber billboard in Provo, Utah.
    Google Fiber in Provo, UT

    Speaking of which, Windstream’s spin-off of its network from it operations is interesting. As a REIT, the actual network and associated equipment may be closer in structure to that of data centers. In the long-term will this mean that the Windstream operations group might branch into running network infrastructures for other entities, such as municipalities?

  • Regarding a former municipal-owned fiber faculty, I snapped a photo of this Google Fiber billboard in Provo, Utah promoting their broadband offering. Simple message from a company that is adept at cutting through the clutter.
  • Sometimes its good to put down the broadband and stop and smell the flowers.
    Smelling the flowers

    Visiting National Parks and other points of interest, I found myself yearning for good wireless broadband to power the augmented reality apps that may or may not exist. There were a couple practical reasons for this desire; 1) not everyone likes to read park information signs and there is often tension between the readers and the lookers in a group, 2) When the projector breaks (as it did at the Grand Canyon), it would be nice to be able stream it to a personal device. Then again, maybe it is better just to be disconnected for a few days.

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