Exploring the impact of broadband and technology on our lives, our businesses, and our communities.

Death of TV: Part LXXVIII: More churn in the TV space

YouTube (part of Google) has launched a streaming TV service, making the whole video on demand space an even more confusing array of services and options, which include Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Roku, offerings directly from some of the alphabet networks, and many others. But competition is a wonderful thing. As buyers of entertainment, we have a wide array of choices that most of us never dreamed of fifteen years ago, and the growth of the Game of Thrones-style miniseries is producing some really good TV, although the term "TV" is really an anachronism these days.

As more and more homes cut the cord to the traditional cable TV package, the importance of having a high performance fiber connection will only increase.

Knowledge Democracy:

The tragic state of the telecom industry

This article has a lot of inside baseball and makes for dense reading, but the bottom line is that telecom industry has learned nothing in the past twenty years.

The article discusses how the cellular carriers are in a race to build more fiber to cell towers, and in doing so are putting price pressure on the independent fiber carriers large and small.

One way to understand this is to go back to the roads analogy. Verizon wants to build private (fiber) roads to all its cell towers. AT&T wants to build a fully duplicated set of (fiber) roads to its cell towers. Sprint wants to build private (fiber) roads to its cell towers. And so on.

If local governments recognized that fiber is just another form of roads, they could build a shared (fiber) road system past ALL cell towers and reap some very interesting revenue.

Technology News:

The Xerox nightmare

Design Nine has a tiny service contract for an old Xerox printer. I had a billing question about a late fee that was assessed for the first time in more than twelve years. I wasted more than forty minutes on the phone with various Xerox reps, none of whom were helpful. Of the forty minutes on the phone, I spent about twenty-five minutes on hold, and I had to call three different numbers and had to talk to four different people.

None of them spoke English as a first language, and none of them were authorized to do anything but apologize for their inability to do anything. If I had a nickle for every time one of them said, "I apologize" I could have paid off the late fee. They had to keep apologizing because they literally could not do anything but apologize.

Xerox makes good printers, and we just did buy one to replace the one going off contract, but Xerox apparently does not care that we've spent thousands and thousands of dollars with them for more than a decade.

Technology News:

Apple's Augmented Reality software very near

Apple announced the availability of its new augmented reality software for the iPhone and iPad at its recent Worldwide Developers Conference. The software kit enables third party app developers to place computer-generated information over real-time images. For example, map information could be superimposed over a live camera feed on an iPhone pointed out the front of a vehicle.

The recent Pokemon Go craze is an early example of augmented reality, and while it is likely that gaming apps will be early users of Apple's new technology, we'll see many other applications and uses as more developers begin integrating the software into their apps.

Here's why bricks and mortar retail is shrinking

I needed a halogen bulb for an under-cabinet light in the kitchen. I spent more than an hour traveling to three different stores, including two big box home improvement stores, and never did find the bulb. I did notice that similar bulbs were selling for about eight dollars.

Once I got home, I looked on Amazon. I found the bulb I needed, in a four pack for twelve dollars, or about $3/bulb instead of eight. I have an Amazon Prime subscription, so the bulbs will be delivered to my front door in two days.

In the bulb hunt, I easily burned up two or three gallons of gas, or more than the cost of the bulb. It's more efficient to buy some things online. And as a side note, Walmart is giving Amazon a run for it's money. Something that was out of stock on Amazon I recently found on the Walmart Web site for 30% less, and got two day free delivery without having to pay for an annual subscription. Competition is a wonderful thing.

Work from home continues to increase

In our work, we are seeing steadily rising numbers of people trying to work from home part or full time. In both the public and private sector, many businesses and agencies now routinely allow employees to work from home one or two days per week, which can have a huge impact on transportation spending. If most commuters stayed home to work just one day a week, you are looking at taking 15% or more of cars off the road, reducing road wear/maintenance, reducing traffic congestion, and shortening commutes.

One rarely discussed challenge is that few homes have the kind of "business class" broadband needed to work efficiently from home. The most common complaint we hear is "I can't use my company VPN from home." The low bandwidth DSL connections don't provide enough capacity, and the highly asymmetric cable Internet services and their highly variable bandwidth play havoc with VPNs.

We're designing and building new, modern networks designed specifically to support work from home and business from home activities. Our work in communities like Bozeman, Montana (www.bozemanfiber.com) is bringing world class, business class networks with true competition to areas of the country that have been largely ignored by the incumbents. Bozeman's community-owned network has five (5) service providers competing for customers.

Is LinkedIn dying?

LinkedIn may not be entirely dead, but in the past several months, I've received nothing but "business friend" requests from sales people and consultants trolling for business. LinkedIn has enabled "lazy" sales work. Just browse LinkedIn for keyword matches for whatever you are selling, and then send a "link" request. I turn them all down.

I was a very early LinkedIn user, and have yet to find it particularly useful. I've never let it have access to my address book, and I rarely use it reach out to people I already know--email and the phone are far more efficient.

LinkedIn is basically Facebook for business people, and aside from the news feeds, it does not offer me much functionality.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

Death of TV: Part LXXVII: Is it really over?

I've been writing about the death of TV since 2005, and twelve years later, the body may be finally in rigor mortis, or close to it. YouTube has announced a $35/month TV service that includes Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, Disney, and....ESPN. It's ESPN that may finally break the back of the traditional cable subscription business model. We've heard very consistently that a lot of residential customers have not given up their cable or satellite subscription because they want to watch sports. YouTube seems ready to give them a viable option.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

Bio-diversity on the Internet is a good thing

Bio-diversity on the Internet is a good thing, just like bio-diversity in the real world is a good thing. The Amazon S3 failure yesterday caused major disruptions in a lot of Internet services, particularly on the east coast of the U.S.

As companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google hold and manage every-increasing portions of Internet content and services, the potential for an service outage to cause major disruptions becomes greater as well. Technology fails, and it is dangerous for any company (or individual) to keep all data in one "basket." There is still nothing safer than a couple of external hard drives, stored in two different locations (e.g. not your business or your home) with your valuable data. Putting it all in the cloud puts it all at risk.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

Virginia communities defeat the death star bill

In a clear sign that the incumbent telephone and cable companies are playing a long game in their fight against competition, a draft bill began circulating in the current legislative session in Virginia.

It was quickly dubbed "the death star bill" because it would have made it nearly impossible for Virginia localities to make any investments in broadband infrastructure. Purportedly, the intent of the bill was to protect taxpayers from "wasting" public money on broadband infrastructure. But it had many restrictions that seemed very similar to the restrictions passed by the North Carolina legislature some years ago.

But Virginia has a wide variety of communities that have already made substantial investments in bringing competitive broadband services into their mostly rural areas, and there was rapid mobilization to fight the bill.

According to ars technica, the bill was replaced by a different bill that only codified some bookkeeping transparency requirements--the rebels won again.

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