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In this on-line publication, we share our analysis, opinions and direction on the interactive television news and views that we believe will be of interest and use to our friends associated directly or indirectly with independent telephone companies. For more information as to the various ways Viodi works with independent telephone companies, please go to http://www.viodi.com/alliance/
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By Ken Pyle, email@example.com, Managing Editor, Viodi View
Despite the post World War II homogenization of the U.S., life is still different in the country than the city. It may be hard to believe, but there are still places where it is possible to step back in time 50 years in time; places where there are no fast-food franchises or big box retailers. I was fortunate enough to visit one of those places last week, when I visited the State that is the geographic center of North America. It seemed appropriate, given the focus of the Viodi View, that I ended my quest to visit all 50 states by meeting with an independent telco that is delivering on the promise of fiber to the home.
We communicated to Thomas via Packet8’s videophone service. This proved to be the most cost-effective way to bring a specialized East Coast attorney to our relatively remote workshop for a brief presentation on a very complex topic. We had Thomas displayed on a 42 inch plasma television and he looked great. The high quality was attributed to the relatively good upstream/downstream signal between our sites, as compared to the 300 kb/s upstream/downstream that I am used to in San Jose. I had always wondered whether the quality challenges I had in San Jose were the application or the bandwidth – now, I know, it’s the bandwidth.
This brings me to the debate about net neutrality. There are people who suggest that the net neutrality argument is largely hypothetical. The reality is there have been real cases in other industries where dominant companies in a market have used their position to crush smaller competitors and upstarts using very subtle means (e.g. selling defective cash registers with their competitor’s nameplates).
In the case of telecom, where so many companies are involved in ensuring a signal gets from one point to another, it may not be a nefarious company that intentionally causes problems but the overall complexity of the network that could be to blame for poor quality. Odds are that the average customer would identify the provider of the application as the one with a problem, even though the real cause might be elsewhere in the network or even within the consumer’s home network.
Perhaps there needs to be a neutral third-party, sort of an electronic, real-time version of a Consumers Reports service, which could help a consumer and the various service providers identify the source of a problem. Minicom’s announcement of their Zoey product might be the type of thing that is needed to provide this sort of information. Zoey uses an Interactive Voice Response agent that allows customers to test service quality for things like noise, echo, speech-quality and caller identification. Results are stored in a web-based database.
This product is intended as a way for the application provider to identify and solve service problems. It seems that with some adaptation, this sort of product could act as a watch dog to monitor the various participants, keeping honest companies honest and expose those who would unfairly compete. Perhaps this could form the basis for a market solution that would prevent the need for explicit net neutrality legislation.
One of the reasons why it is critical to uphold Freedom Principles outlined by former FCC Chairman Powell is the remarkable explosion of applications we are seeing because of the openness of the Internet. Digital Hollywood – Building Blocks showcased a number of new Internet applications that are not only cutting edge, but are creating new industries and are changing the very way people communicate. The celebrities of this new technology generation, such as YouTube’s Chad Hurley, were on hand to talk about the futuristic things that are happening today. Unfortunately, I arrived on Thursday and only got to see a few of the panels.
The reason I missed the first few days of Digital Hollywood is due to last week’s Local Content Workshop. We have not figured out where we will hold the next workshop, but we do have a couple of related upcoming activities that should be of interest to any independent telco that is planning on or already local content.
I will be leading a special workshop designed to get Directors of Independent Telcos fired up about local content. Their will be plenty of examples and, of course, lots of videos from telcos from around the country. So, please encourage your company’s Directors to attend Session 5, Local Telco Content - The Ultimate Community of Interest on September 25th.
OPASTCO’s 4th annual Tech Symposium is this year focused exclusively on IPTV and how it relates to independent telcos. They have a great agenda and a great line up of speakers, including Chad Miles, President and CEO of Enhanced Telecommunications Corp., Paul Connolly, VP Business Development of Scientific Atlanta, Ed Knudson, Sr. VP of Marketing for Open TV and Bill Murray, Vice President of NRTC. This is a must-attend event for any independent telco participating in or interested in deploying video.
This workshop will be unlike any of the previous Local Content Workshops in that it will focus exclusively on the technology of local content. It will be held the morning of the 11th and will be a great way to start a couple days of networking and learning. Some of the topics we will be discussing at this workshop include:
We are looking for speakers to help us fill out the above agenda, so feel free to send us an email (localtech at viodi.com) with your idea for a presentation that fits the above theme. To learn more about these conferences, please click here.
Telcos, cable operators and direct broadcast satellite providers are trying to build the perfect bundle of services. When they get there, will they find that the perfect bundle isn’t enough? This was a question I had a chance to ask earlier this summer to some industry experts. My summary of the responses to this question was published in an article in Telephony’s Independent magazine a few weeks ago and are published here in the Viodi View for the first time. Click here to read how these industry experts responded to my query.
All of the press Tuesday was on Cisco’s purchase of Arroyo Video Systems. A less well reported story was Harmonic’s purchase of Entone’s video server business that was announced the same day. These announcements, coupled with Motorola’s purchase of Broadbus, C-COR’s purchase of nCube a few years ago and the diversification into middleware and other software products by companies like Kasenna and SeaChange International, indicate the days of the video server company as a stand-alone entity may be history.
My apologies to those of you who viewed the Viodi web site last Thursday morning. Some Internet terrorist replaced the index page of the Viodi web site, so there was jibberish and some off-color language for a few hours – ok, maybe not much different than the typical Viodi View. The good news is that the hacker only replaced the index page, so it was a quick fix to get everything up and running again. Reporting the crime to the FBI was easy, although I doubt the criminal will ever be caught.
It is a long story why the site was hacked, but the bottom line is that the only logical explanation it that it had something to do with the subscription site software that we were beginning to implement. Needless to say, that software has been shelved and we are looking for a new alternative. Yes, we are looking at implementing some subscription components to the web site.
We haven’t worked out the details, but the focus will be on independent telcos. We have quite a few ideas on things to implement, but they take time and money. Please email me (ken at viodi.com) with any things you would like to see in a subscription version of the Viodi View. I figure you are a potential customer for the Viodi View subscription site, if you have read this far.
Roger Bindl is extremely excited about a new upload service where he is uploading his new videos. The site is www.revver.com. What makes it unique is that Revver hand places commercials in the videos. Revenue from the commercials is shared between the creator, the affiliate (in this case Viodi) and Revver. His first evening of views yielded something like a nickel an hour, so he is well on his way to buying a cup of coffee with his new found Internet money machine.
And judging by the responses to the “Cult of the Prius” article that ran in the last issue of the Viodi View, I am not the only one who is getting much lower gas mileage than the EPA/Toyota suggest. To read some of the rather witty and interesting commentary from Viodi View readers, click here.
A little further off the telecommunications & video topic, John O’Donnell, founder of MPEG-4 chip maker Equator Technologies and founder of a new company, Tsugino, reports that concentrated solar power has the potential to replace fossil fuels in the generation of electricity. It’s all mirrors and smoke (steam really). In his comments to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, he talks about different approaches to generating more electricity, more efficiently including the use of using hybrid solar/fossil fuel plants and thermal storage.
Interestingly, in an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, a reference was made to a new truck that is being produced by Peterbilt that uses a hybrid transmission that somehow uses a hydraulic mechanism to store energy. By doing this, fuel efficiency can be increased by as much as 60 to 70 percent. The technology was developed by the EPA and Ford had apparently used it to create an Expedition that achieved more than 27 MPG in the city. They abandoned that program in 2004 and decided to use Toyota’s hybrid-electric technology insead.
Finally, Tac Berry points out that the United States Air Force is looking at synthesizing oil from coal to run airplanes. As he points out, this is sort of a blast from the past. I wonder who will shovel the coal?
Many on the left and right coasts call the Midwest “fly over” country. I suggest that “drive-through and stay-awhile” country is a more appropriate term for America’s Heartland. From 40,000 feet high, it is difficult to distinguish the nuances of the plains and the mountains. Even driving down the interstate at 75 miles per hour, it is difficult to get an appreciation for the unique qualities of rural America. That’s why I was glad to be able to spend a few days in a small town with people from independent telcos who could really give me an appreciation for their great state.
What really makes North Dakota and most other rural areas special are the people. The people in the country have to be tougher than those in the city – especially in North Dakota where it gets so cold in the winter that people have plug-in heaters to keep their engine blocks from freezing. People in the country band together in cooperatives – to create a modern telecommunications system or create more value for their wheat crop by producing pasta (e.g. Dakota Central Pasta based in Carrington). It makes me wonder, does the land shape the people or do the people shape the land?
The thing that really indicated to me that there are some fundamental difference between life in the city and the country was the birthday party one of Local Workshop attendees gave her 8 year old son. She organized a rodeo for her son. The clown she had at her party did not blow up balloon animals, but instead made sure animals did not trample any of the kids. I am used to parties with bouncy houses, but this one had bouncy animals. What a great experience and one that can only be replicated in a rural area.
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The Video Business Case for Independent Telcos – The Report
Viodi’s report, Video Business Case provides results to a survey of independent telcos and their business case for video. Most of the telcos that responded to the survey have figured out a way to deploy video services. This survey provides insight from the independent telcos as well as several of their Engineering firms.
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