My Latest Improbable Link: Net Neutrality and the GTO


Photo illustration from

My latest venture into non sequiturs has nothing to do with speed, or “non-speed” as some in the net neutrality debate might describe.

Rather, this has something to do with seeing someone else recognize something that you’ve noticed all along, and enjoying the moment as “Aha!” emerges. Or, having that moment yourself when someone is able to put words to something you have noticed, but until that point have been unable to describe.

First, the Pontiac. The gearheads out there will recall the 2004-2006 GTO. A recent post on Jalopnik included it among the ten biggest automotive industry mulligans. One commenter eschewed the website’s analysis that described why the car failed to live up to initial expectations, and posted a photo that he claimed illustrated the real reason for the lukewarm reception the Australian import garnered in the United States. (hint: look at the exhaust routing). I took some pride in viewing the photo and recognizing (almost) immediately the problem the poster highlighted (FWIW, I also agree with the photographic reply (here, and scroll down) to the undercarriage illustration). The rub of it is that despite packing 350 horsepower in a 5.7 liter engine, appearances still count for something. Dual exhaust that doesn’t look like dual exhaust just won’t cut it. Read more

Got Plans Between Now and 2017?

In the latest sign that the apocalypse must surely be close at hand, TiVo has announced that it is ready to market the world’s largest DVR.

The six-tuner TiVo Mega boasts 24 terabytes of storage space. In case that doesn’t impress you, look at it this way: the Mega can record and store more than 26,000 hours of standard definition content. That’s more than three years of local news, singing competitions, and Seinfeld reruns. Three Years. 

For HD recording, Mega’s capacity dips to 4,000 hours, or about five and a half months of razor sharp local news, singing competitions, and Seinfeld reruns.

TiVo hopes to bring the Mega to market sometime in early 2015. The retail price will be approximately $5,000.

“Size matters,” said TiVO chief marketing officer Ira Bahr. “People hate being forced to delete cool stuff from their DVR before they want to or finding a TV show they had recorded is now gone. Now, with TiVo Mega they can always know their show or movie is still there to watch later. TiVo Mega offers more than 12 times the storage of any cable or satellite DVR. TiVo Mega is the solution for the power user who wants to record everything.”

And, apparently, also has the time to watch everything.

Is HBO Planning a Direct Shot on Netflix in the Direct-To-Consumer Video Market?

In most things related to the online video market, Netflix gets most of the attention. It makes sense, they have 36 million U.S. subscribers, got into a high-profile spat with Verizon and Comcast, and are basically seen as the leader in the online video content space. The question has always been, when will they have a more serious competitor?

Well, HBO may be that competitor. That is, HBO could transition to a direct-to-consumer option, that, like Netflix, can be accessed without subscribing to a pay-TV service such as cable or satellite.

The speculation about such a move started with some statements made by Jeff Bewkes, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Time Warner, HBO’s parent company. He was talking about HBO Go, which is available only to those with a pay-TV subscription, and he stated that the over-the-top market was looking more and more attractive. Indeed, HBO already launched in 2012 a direct-to-consumer product (called HBO Nordic) in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Obviously, the U.S. market is much different, but success with HBO Nordic may spur HBO into the direct-to-consumer market in the United States. On one hand, as Jeff Bewkes noted in 2013, there are about 70 million people in the United States that subscribe to a pay-TV service but don’t also subscribe to HBO. There are only about five to 10 million “cord cutters.” So, while HBO may want to focus on the 70 million versus the 10 million, going direct-to-consumer and increasing the available library of over-the-top content may get a number of those 70 million to look more closely at HBO Go. So, stay tuned.



Broadband TV: Adding Video to Your Broadband Offer

One of the more promising and emerging applications in today’s broadband marketplace is the concept of broadband TV. The idea is somewhat of a scaled down version of a full -blown IPTV offer, where a broadband provider delivers a slim channel line up over its broadband network, typically to a Roku streaming STB. That slimmed down channel line-up is then paired with the OTT video options available on that Roku device to offer a new approach to video and entertainment for end customers.

With broadband TV, service providers are delivering their local broadcast channels (ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, etc.), along with other local content they may be producing via broadband into the home and/or business. The model requires much of the same components as IPTV, just in a much smaller scale (and significantly less expensive manner). Retransmission consent, video encoders and some form of broadband TV middleware are necessary. But with far fewer channels to manage, the costs can be considerably less.

Several NTCA members are offering broadband TV including Canby Telcom, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom and Duo County Telecom.

There are limitations and it’s not a service for everyone. But for broadband carriers looking to offer some form of video in a less costly manner – perhaps to subscribers who can’t get IPTV, or for ‘cord cutters’ looking for other options, broadband TV may be worth exploring.

It’s a topic we will be covering at length at the upcoming BroadbandVision show. We have a case study by Duo County Telecom, as well as a session outlining the technical and operational requirements to offer it. There will be a number of exhibitors with solutions addressing the application as well. It’s worth a look.

In Case You Missed It: First Mile of Lincoln Highway Celebrated, New App Eviscerates Google Glass

One of the great things about blogging is that, unlike an FCC filing or court brief, there is no real order or script to follow and no regulations governing word counts or page limits. So, the author is free to either ramble or incorporate seemingly disparate information. More importantly, since it’s not a legal argument, the author is free to present material just because “it’s interesting.” Or, even “just because.”

Two stories making the rounds of the web this week illustrate just how much has changed in a simple century. The first, from Daily Yonder, describes the 100th anniversary of a “seedling road” in DeKalb County, Ill. Interest in building more paved roads in rural areas began in the late 1800s, but gathered momentum in the early part of the 20th century as automobiles became more common. The Lincoln Highway, originally a gravel road stretching from Times Square to San Francisco, relied initially on private funding. Federal funding was injected within the decade, and by 1926, legislation regarding federal highway funding emerged. The Daily Yonder article is a fantastic exposition of history and analysis, and illustrates the formative role of road building in nation building.

By marvelous contrast is an article in this week’s edition of Wired, which describes a device that can identify and then cut-off Google glass from a WiFi network. Given the utter creepiness of sitting near someone wearing Google glass in diner or airport, the device should be welcome (if not demanded) in public spaces everywhere.

But, those feelings might simply be indicative of what some have chalked up to the standard wariness, caution, or disdain that people have for new technology and early adopters. TechCrunch makes the case that simply not seeing the end-game or purpose of a product (the “what’s the point of that” reaction) may cause those who dismiss the device to be dismissive of the people using it.

Perhaps not immediately, but soon, for every person wearing glass as a gimmick will be someone wearing it “for real” – like firefighters who can use Google glass to view building plans when fighting blazes or initiating rescues.

So, in a brief century we have gone from packed gravel roads to wearable devices. And, beyond wearable devices, to other devices that can detect and disable them. No real lessons here – just taking advantage of a blog to share some interesting things I learned this week.


Study: Five Out of Every Six U.S. Households Subscribe to a Pay TV Service

Eighty-four percent of U.S. households currently subscribe to some form of pay TV service, a recent study conducted by Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) finds.

Among those households that do not currently subscribe to a pay TV service, 35% have never subscribed. Six percent intend to subscribe in the coming six months.

LRG finds that while the absolute number of subscribers has remained relatively unchanged, an increase in the number of total households has resulted in a slight decline in the overall subscription rate.

The study also finds that 22% of TV households with average annual incomes less than $50,000 are non-subscribers, compared with 13% of those with incomes above $50,000. The average household spends $89.78 monthly for their pay TV service, up 36% from 2009.

The LRG study, Cable, DBS & Telcos: Competing for Customers 2014, is based on a telephone survey of 1,260 households throughout the United States.

“The number of pay TV subscribers in the U.S. remains about as high as it has ever been, but penetration of pay TV services in consumers’ homes has declined over the past few years, as subscriber growth has leveled off, while occupied housing in the U.S. has increased,” said Bruce Leichtman, LRG president and principal analyst. “Housing growth has been exclusively among renters, who tend to be more challenging for the pay TV industry than home owners because of their comparatively lower income, younger age, and greater likelihood to move.”

Relativity and Reasonable Comparability

IMG_20140819_074008I spent a night during the last week of summer vacation wondering whether forecasted thunderstorms would force me out of a tent and into a parked car. Some might call that “roughing it,” but the camp site was actually quite civilized — there was a post with 20 amps of current about 20 feet away, potable water about 50 feet away, and a football-field length walk to a good set of showers. It wasn’t “roughing it” – it was simply “sleeping outside.”

The debate over what can be considered “camping” accepts many arguments. When I told a friend that I don’t consider my trips spent in a cabin to be true camping because I have indoor plumbing and a kitchen, he asked, “Did you have full access to ESPN?” When I said, “No,” he replied, “Then you were roughing it.”

The notion of relativity is one that pervades universal service policies. Those familiar with the issue are attune to the statutory mandate that consumers in rural and insular parts of the nation have access to services that are reasonably comparable to those available in urban areas, and at reasonably comparable rates.

“Reasonably comparable,” however, can be defined larger than a barn door. As if “comparable” by itself were not flexible enough, Congress added “reasonably” to inject some subjective oversight onto the topic.

The FCC is taking a fresh look at reasonable comparability. Read more

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