Connections, the television series from the late 1970s tied together seemingly disparate historical events and inventions and showed how history isn’t the linear progression it would seem; sort of a story of unintended consequences. As I traveled about since the previous issue of the Viodi View, I kept thinking about the unintended consequences that the National Broadband Plan, along with other regulatory action or inaction, regarding things such as the Universal Service Fund, Intercarrier Access, Net Neutrality rules, is having on private sector investment in rural telecommunications.
I heard a speaker, who represents independent telcos before Congress, at a private meeting last week suggest that regulatory uncertainty is having a “chilling effect” on private investment in telecommunications in rural areas. The uncertainty surrounding the long-term implications of the regulatory environment are causing some telcos to decline stimulus funding, as they are not certain whether or not they will be able to meet the terms of the stimulus programs. One telco I talked to had to decline their award, because it was only a fraction of what they had requested, which killed the business case to bring broadband to a very rural area.
Douglas Meredith of JSI outlines eight concerns he has with the National Broadband Plan in this video interview filmed at the OPASTCO 2010 Conference. Citing FTTH Council figures, he suggests that the cost figures for getting to the “unserved” may not be as big investment as indicated in the plan. He recommends that the FCC look at the programs that have been successful in building telecom in rural areas and use those as a model for the unserved areas, while not forgetting that the existing high cost areas will continue to need support. Click here to view.
One outcome of the FCC's National Broadband Plan has been the uniting of the national associations in Washington that represent independent telcos. In this brief interview with Derrick Owens, Director of Government Affairs for the Western Telecom Alliance, discusses the importance of having a unified front as far as representing the viewpoints of the carriers that server rural America. Owens was on an insightful panel that discussed the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. Unfortunately, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski did not stay to listen to that panel. Click here to view.
GAO Report: Four Telcos Control U.S. Wireless Industry by Alan Weissberger
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that consolidation amongst wireless carriers over the past decade has resulted in just four telcos owning 90 percent of the U.S. wireless market. The big two, are, of course, AT&T and Verizon Wireless (VZW) – the behemoths that produce the popular "dueling commercials" that try to trump one another on their network coverage. The other two wireless carriers- far behind in both subscribers and revenues- are Sprint and T-Mobile. This chokehold on the wireless market, makes it extremely difficult for small and regional wireless carriers to be competitive.
[Click here to read the rest of the post, Alan's analysis and the commentary which raises some interesting questions].
Widevine’s announcement that Best Buy is integrating the former’s adaptive streaming, virtual DVD-like controls and digital rights management into their Insignia brand of televisions, Blu-ray and media players is points to the elimination of the traditional set-top for over the top video. Interestingly, according to Widevine, integration of these Widevine components could potentially mean that an existing IPTV operator that uses the various Widevine elements could provide traditional franchised video services directly to the consumers’ televisions without a set-top.
The press release from ActiveVideo grabbed my attention as they have effectively developed a meta-remote that allows for the discovery and selection of content via an iPhone. As they point out in their release, this approach would allow an operator with a one-way network to deliver on-demand services while using the wireless network for the upstream interactivity. I do wonder how big this market might be, as those areas where there are one-way plants, probably tend to be in rural areas where cell phone coverage might also be marginal. Having said that, the more important application may be in those cases where the remote (e.g. the iPhone) augments the power of a low-cost box by providing better navigation.
The Gee-Touch and More
Just before last Christmas, I asked the question, Where's the Gee-Touch? Based on the five handheld portable products that Archos is releasing in the next couple of months, the Gee-Touch appears to becoming a commercial reality. With a $99.99, android-based media player that does email, web browsing, eBooks, 3D gaming and communicates via WiFi, Archos seems to have met my definition for what I called a Gee-Touch. At the other end of the extreme, Archos will be introducing a 10.1” android device that has features such as a web cam, high definition playback, full Flash 10, the ability to tether a 3G phone (in those cases where WiFi is not available) and a 10-hour battery life. At $299.99 to $349.99, this could give both the iPad, as well as PC Notebook’s a run for their money.
Freakonomics seems to be this generation’s version of Connections. The tag line says it all, “The Hidden Side of Everything.” The best-selling book series (Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics) captured the imaginations of millions of readers the past few years by using economics theory to explain things; things that normally wouldn’t be associated with the dismal science.
It seems appropriate, then, that the movie about Freakonomics is on the cutting edge, as it will make its digital distribution this Friday, September 3rd; almost a month ahead of its theatrical release. Interestingly, according to Green Films this will be the first time that Apple has distributed a film prior to theatrical release. Does this provide a glimpse of some of the things (pre-theatrical release, low-cost ala-carte, subscription, a TV from Apple) we may see in today’s announcement from Apple regarding their new approach to delivering services to the television? Time will tell if there is a connection between this early release on iTunes and another Apple revolution.