Monthly Archives: April 2014

Quick Hits: Net Neutrality, Paid Peering, Wi-Fi Hotspots, and a Johannesburg FTTH Deployment

I’ve been a little buried lately and haven’t had time to put a lot of thought into another blog post, but lest you miss out on anything, here are a few interesting reads from the last couple of days:

1) Thanks to Todd Spangler’s Twitter feed, I spotted today’s FCC blog post about Net Neutrality by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

2) Also worth noting is Netflix’s “paid peering” deal with Verizon (along the lines of its deal with Comcast), as per this article on the Time website yesterday.

3) What’s so interesting about that?  Well, perhaps you missed the brouhaha about Netflix VP of Content Delivery Ken Florance’s blog post last week, accusing Comcast of “double dipping by getting both its subscribers and Internet content providers to pay for access to each other,” as quoted in this FierceCable article, which even shows an interesting chart of before-and-after speeds that was included in Florance’s blog post. If you’re curious, here’s the link to the original post in the Netflix blog.

4) Today’s CED article about the CableWiFi Alliance reaching 250,000 hot spots recalls my own post from a couple weeks ago about wi-fi adding value to a landline/cabled brand.  In this case, it added value is the ability to roam.

5) Many of you who know I have a special interest in FTTH – heck, it’s how I made a name for myself, at least among those who knew my work more at KMI than a decade ago.  So you will not be at all surprised that I’m adding this last piece.  Adam Oxford wrote this ZDNet piece about a FTTH pilot in Johannesburg that, per the article, “has laid claim to being the first to offer 100Mbps fibre to the home (FTTH) on the continent.”

That’s an awful lot of links for one blog post, but it’s been more than a week since my last post, so I guess I’m making up for lost time.

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Retransmission Fees, Antenna Service, and Aereo

Not much grabbing my attention lately in telecom headlines, but going over the last few days of headlines, this FierceCable article about Aereo founder Chet Kanojia’s interview with Katie Couric brings up a few interesting points. To quote an interesting segment of the interview:

“There’s a market imbalance,” Kanojia said. “Nobody loves their cable company.”

While primarily concerned with his company’s rocky relationship with broadcasters and Aereo’s April 22 date with the Supreme Court to justify an over-the-air-for-a-fee TV service model, Kanojia also said that cable companies are “absolutely” pricing themselves out of the market.

For the most part, he said, this is because cable is caught in a web being spun by broadcasters that link their “crown jewel” over-the-air programming with cable channels.

“If you get these people (Aereo customers) an antenna, you would have half the value proposition in front of them–for a lot less money (than a pay TV service),” he told Couric. Broadcasters, he added, only want “to preserve the old business model.”

There are some valid points here, though the establishment of the legaility of retransmission fees as established U.S. law in 1992 cause Aereo’s arguments to be a delicate balancing act.  (Of note, retransmission fees are not legal in Canada, assuming nothing has changed since 2012.  But I digress…)  This is why Aereo must rely on the argument that it is merely an antenna service.  Ironically, that’s what cable TV started out as.  (As I learned in my intro class while getting my BA in Telecommunications, CATV originally stood for “Community Antenna Television.”)

So the first question is whether you can put access to an antenna in the cloud.  But the second question is whether that antenna in the cloud is any different from the cable company’s antenna.  Aereo is arguing that it’s a personal antenna.  (Note the apparent similarities to cable TV I point out in the previous paragraph.)  Balancing act, indeed.

Of course, Kanojia had some thoughts about retransmission fees in general and the extent to which antenna service simply expands a TV station’s local market (both to those who can’t pick up signals due to obstructions and to those who simply find it more convenient to access local stations via an antenna service alongside satellite signals and other aggregating programming [cable TV]).  Though as someone who has worked in the telecom business, I can see the advantages of maintaining that revenue stream for local programmers to continue ensuring the viability of over-the-air television, I can also make a strong philosophical case for siding with the Canadian Supreme Court.

A little digging also brought up this interesting quote in an Adweek article, a snippet from the Wall Street Journal opinion piece written by TV industry veteran Barry Diller, who is current Chairman at one of Aereo’s financial backers.  Diller makes an interesting point about retransmission fees, a battle that, from Diller’s position, may have been lost more than 20 years ago:

“Broadcasters make more money when consumers are steered away from over-the-air program delivery and toward cable and satellite systems that pay the broadcasters retransmission fees. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it seems rich for them to forget the agreement they made to provide television to the consumer in return for the spectrum that enables their business,” wrote Diller in the Wall Street Journal.

But his reminder that broadcasters use the public airwaves is interesting to consider alongside Kanojia’s quote about how broadcast TV derives a significant portion of its revenue from retransmission fees.  Not sure either of those points, however, matters to the decision of this case; they’re more likely to simply good PR that could score points with a public that would like cheaper over-the-air television.  Of course, if Aereo loses this case and has to discontinue its service, public opinion won’t matter.

Though the outcome of this case will certainly impact the general public, the philosophical arguments behind it are likely only of interest to telecom policy geeks.  If you’ve read this far, though, that probably includes you.

Wi-Fi Hotspots as a Value Add/Customer Retention Strategy

When I was working in rural telecom a decade ago, I used to tell anyone whose ear I could reach that I thought wi-fi hotspots would be a great way to get people to value our local Internet service as they moved around town. I was concerned that the costs might be prohibitive in relation to the measurable benefits — particularly where competition was still sparse — but I figured it was a strategy that would prove useful at some point in the future. A family-driven relocation forced me to leave that company before that strategy’s time came, and I never did find out if my “earworm” dug its way into anyone’s brain there to resurface when the rural markets began to mature, but I was just reminded of my old strategic thinking by an RCR Wireless news item about Comcast hitting 1 million hotspots.

Tech-savvy consumers may be able to fearlessly navigate external wi-fi networks, but what percentage of the customer base simply wants its service provider-given e-mail to work, no matter where they are? And what would they pay for that, either as a rate premium or in the form of reduced churn?

Just my thought for the day; as always, sparked by an item in the news.

Cablevision’s Cloud-Based Multi-Room DVR… and How That Reminded Me About Aereo

It has been a while since I’ve followed the DVR specifics in the cable industry, but this Fierce Cable article about Cablevision’s new DVR product caught my eye.

Cablevision has been pushing remote-storage DVRs for years — I recall the discussion of its legality during my time following the cable industry while I was at NPRG (2005-2007).  And I couldn’t tell from today’s article which functionality in Cablevision’s DVR was new.  So I did a little more research and found the answer, I think, in a Multichannel News article — the ability to record 15 shows at once (up from Cablevision’s previous 10 shows and more than Verizon’s 12 shows).

But that’s not where my Googling stopped, as this reminded me of recent articles about Aereo, which relies on a 2008 ruling (and subsequent rulings as the case has advanced through the courts) as the basis of its claim of legality for its “remote antenna” and “remote DVR” service (as it’s described in the “So what actually happens when I use Aereo?” section of Aereo’s FAQ page).  And that reminded me of an article I had seen discussing how Cablevision seemed to simultaneously oppose both Aereo and the case against Aereo; of course, that’s an oversimplification of Cablevision’s position, which is why I included the link.  Whatever comes next, it will be worth following.  If you have been following this closely, then you’re probably yawning already, as you realize this paragraph is just a quick-hit highlight reel, but if you don’t already know about this and find your interest piqued, please use this as a springboard to do some of your own research in greater detail (and feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section).

And to think this all stemmed from a simple article about a Cablevision DVR product upgrade.

U.S. Fiber Penetration Reaches 39.3 Percent of Buildings

Looking for some interesting content to kick the blog off — something to help me get my feet wet in the blogosphere.  For my old friends and colleagues in the fiberoptics and telecom carrier industries, this is an interesting data point.  (Click the title to see a link to the Fierce Telecom article about the VSG report.)

Indeed, fiber penetration is improving in the U.S., but building connectivity is still below half, according to this report.

Interesting quote in the article is about the movement of carriers to connect small and medium-sized buildings in greater numbers:

“The majority of new fiber deployments were focused on connecting medium and smaller buildings in the metro areas surrounding major cities across the U.S.,” said Rosemary Cochran, principal at Vertical Systems Group.

Beyond that, just a short quick-hit article.  As I get more comfortable with this blogging software, I’ll be sure to post any time I see something interesting (rather than looking for something to post, as I did tonight).

Thanks for reading.

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