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Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends

Friday, September 23, 2005

BobF at 12:53 PM [url]:

Just posted "Connectivity is a utility"

See "Connectivity is a Utility". It's a consolidation and updating of points I made in the past.

Today's telecom model is an unsustainable legacy of deals made in the 1930's -- support of a government sanctioned monopoly in return for a promise to be nice. It was corrupt from the beginning but only sustainable because the depression led people to distrust the marketplace and ATT was able to take advantage of people's ignorance. Telephony seemed like magic.

It's a fundamentally corrupt arrangement. Today the Internet has demonstrated not only that the marketplace works but it works far better than anyone could've imagined. Even those who created the Internet have been surprised by what it has given us so far. And that has been despite the carriers -- be they cable, telephone or wireless.

It's time to allow us to aggregate our buying power and pay for a public good. The word utility has become tainted by government incompetence but this is an example of a utility that is inclusive -- we can all add value and when we participate we do add value.

In the telecommunications model the FCC is a steward of a marketplace and preserves scarcity in order to keep it viable. It has become increasingly detached from reality and is little more than a corporate welfare system that punishes innovation that doesn't profit the carriers.

A utility model is a viable business model. We pool our resources to pay for connectivity and share it so that we derive the benefit of applications built using connectivity. Why must people die because of a brittle E911 system when we can offer people the ability to get assistance anywhere? Why not allow a pacemaker to simply alert our personal physician rather than waiting for a heart attack and hoping we can get to the phone to dial 911 -- or 9911 or whatever might work. Why built brittle phone networks instead of meshing simply to conform to an arbitrary billing model?

We can no longer tolerate a Regulatorium that exists outside of reality. We can no longer tolerate policy made by those who are ignorant of technology, perhaps even disdain understanding how things work.

Personally I find myself very frustrated when we have relatively simple solutions but are forced to support arbitrary and complex solutions that are based on naive misunderstandings.

We should learn the lessons of the S&L debacle when we had to write off a trillion dollars to get the banking system restarted in the early 1980's.

Incremental changes won't get us there anymore than they got Sisyphus over the hill. We need a new direction and simply permitting aggregation will allow communities to embrace the utility model. It will be hard for the carriers to maintain their control once people understand how empowered the really are.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

DanB at 7:47 PM [url]:

Technology, government, and business

The story about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts choosing to standardize on the Open Document format instead of Microsoft's Office XML ones has been in the news. There are many issues here. Senior Massachusetts officials met with representatives from several software companies (including Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, and Sun) last week to discuss many of those issues. The complete meeting was recorded and is available as a 2 hour MP3 file. See "Open Format Meeting September 2005" for a link to that file.

Monday, September 19, 2005

BobF at 9:58 PM [url]:

DVDs and IPTV -- Change is Opportunity

On the way home form VON I was listening to NPR. At VON I had been talking to Microsoft about their IPTV offerings and their decision to sell to carriers. The good news is that the technology isn't really tied to the carriers so they can sell the technology more generally. One reason for selling to the carriers is that is a business model everyone understands and it is consistent with the Tellywood walled-garden model of distribution and the need to provide a perch for advertisers.

What caught my attention was the review extolling the DVD box set of the TV series Lost and how the DVDs are a creative medium in their own right and part of the larger marketing campaign. Many people wait for the DVDs and avoid the commercials and the week between episodes. The DVD is creative in its own right. If you listen to the director's commentary he even stops the movie to give more information about the filming. The studios treat the DVDs as part of the marketing and the fall release generates interest in the next season.

Even though Tellywood fought against video recording they manage to turn it into an opportunity. The carriers want to be just like the old Cable TV companies and Microsoft and others want to sell them the technology to do so because Microsoft can understand that market and Tellywood wants to sell within their walled garden. They don't know how to do it other ways. After all, how would you pay for content if you don't have today's advertising model.

The DVD phenomenon is one more reminder that the future will take care of itself. It's not a mysterious process -- just people taking advantage of new opportunities. Once more the lesson is to sell to the future not the past. IPTV should be for individuals, not just those who want to make our choices for us.

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