Last week the Wire Report ran a story by Nick Kyonka headlined “CRTC vertical integration rules encourage OTTs to buy sports rights: Gourd.” No prizes for guessing where the chair of the Online Broadcasting Working Group (OBWG) was headed with that worrisome observation:
The CRTC’s new regulatory framework governing vertically integrated companies may have given too much of an advantage to online content providers such as Netflix Inc., Google Inc., [and] Apple Inc.
As I explained in a pair of posts last July (“Get yer grimy paws off my Netflix”), the OTT cabal has shown they will stop at nothing to persuade the CRTC and political friendlies that new, innovative online competitors must be stomped out. They’re bad for the broadcasting system, bad for Canadian culture, bad for Canadian citizens. The group’s claims would be laughable if they weren’t part of a deadly serious attempt to win concessions. To say nothing of the fact they’re doing all this with the publicly acknowledged support of the CRTC. This time, however, the OBWG is trying to put the public interest in double jeopardy.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released the findings from its fourth experts survey on the future of the Internet. I was one of 895 respondents who took part in this edition. Between Christmas Day and January 15, I blogged my responses to the 10 questions (those posts are all tagged “surveys”). I’ve been doing a scorecard to see how I match up with the other 894 respondents and their predictions for the year 2020. (My thanks to Lee Rainie and his colleagues for a thrilling ride.)
Here’s the setup, from the report’s preface (p.3):
“Respondents to the Future of the Internet IV survey, fielded from Dec. 2, 2009 to Jan. 11, 2010, were asked to consider the future of the Internet‐connected world between now and 2020 and the likely innovation that will occur. They were asked to assess 10 different “tension pairs” – each pair offering two different 2020 scenarios with the same overall theme and opposite outcomes – and they were asked to select the one most likely choice of two statements. [...]
“Please note that this survey is primarily focused on eliciting focused observations on the likely impact and influence of the Internet – not on the respondents’ choices from the pairs of predictive statements. Many times when respondents “voted” for one scenario over another, they responded in their elaboration that both outcomes are likely to a degree or that an outcome not offered would be their true choice. Survey participants were informed that “it is likely you will struggle with most or all of the choices and some may be impossible to decide; we hope that will inspire you to write responses that will explain your answer and illuminate important issues.”
The report concentrates on five of the 10 original “tension pairs”:
1 – whether Google will make us stupid (as alleged by Nicholas Carr);
2 – the impact of the Internet on reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge;
3 – takeoff technologies;
4 – the end-to-end principle; and
5 – anonymity. Continue reading
Last week Google announced it will finance ultra high-speed residential Internet access over fiber in select US communities. North American broadband households get average downlink speeds of around 5 Mbit/s. No wonder this initiative has caused a lot of jaw-dropping, soul-searching and wild-assed speculation.
The announcement has gleaned very positive support from Washington’s advocacy community. Others have fretted about Google’s real motives, such as whether or not the company is planning to become a retail ISP. The incumbents and their fellow travellers have dissed the venture. For example:
“The Google plan is short on details, with no information on capital spending, and, in our view, should primarily be seen through the lens of regulatory posturing,” Sanford Bernstein senior analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a research report. “We do not view Google’s announcement as a serious threat to the broadband businesses of either the cable or telecom operators.”
Short on details? Jeez, the project just got announced. The details will come as part of the “experimental” process. Like, that’s the whole point. And the suggestion Google is engaging in “regulatory posturing” is a hoot coming from the carrier sub-culture, which pretty much invented regulatory posturing. Continue reading
Last week Interactive Ontario hosted its first iLunch of the season, entitled “What is broadcast?” (I was involved in some of the planning.) Buddy Brady Gilchrist moderated in his usual immoderate, provocative and enlightened way. Two things kept jumping out.
First, I was surprised to hear a current of old-fashioned jingoism running through much of an otherwise useful discussion. After radio, TV, movies and magazines, now it’s apparently the turn of Google, Apple and the other US cyber-behemoths to be pouring over the 49th parallel and… messing with our digital media? Apparently we have to face up to this menace or… all is lost?
Apple is a menace because it’s taking money out of the country and creating its own new brand of walled garden. Yes and yes. And so what? Where is the biggest concentration of Canadian movies, TV, music and podcasts on the Web, in one place? If it’s not the Canadian iTunes Store, somebody point the way. There was complaining about rev share (is there another system?) and about the tilt to success for artists who get on the iTunes homepage. Yes, and other artists will be suffering in the background, not doing quite as well. That’s show biz. Continue reading
A great question for science fiction writers.
Q.9 – Are the next takeoff technologies evident now?
A. The hot gadgets and applications that will capture the imagination of users in 2020 are pretty evident today and will not take many of today’s savviest innovators by surprise.
B. The hot gadgets and applications that will capture the imagination of users in 2020 will often come “out of the blue” and not have been anticipated by many of today’s savviest innovators.
[my answer: A]
Please explain your choice and share your view of its implications for the future. What do you think will be the hot gadgets, applications, technology tools in 2020?
“Some of 2020’s hot new gadgets are bound to come out of the blue. But for North Americans, I think the Next Big Thing will be an exponential jump in a well-known commodity: bandwidth. Residential bandwidth scarcity in both Canada and the US has held back the availability of immersive environments for personal messaging and multi-player online gaming, not to mention telemedicine, telecommuting, real hi-def entertainment and distance learning. Most of us are still stuck with a single-digit Mbit/s connection; highly asymmetric downlink/uplink architectures; high prices; and very few choices in service provider. If we can get, say, 30% of North American homes on a last mile of 50 megs down and 20 megs up by 2020, we’ll experience a sea-change in our online lives. This development will become especially important as more and more devices become networked, up to and including our kitchen appliances. Continue reading
Here’s the next question from the Pew 2009 survey of experts about our online future, as described in my December 25 post. In that post I neglected to mention a major online resource for this project. It’s the site operated by Pew’s partner, Elon University: Imagining the Internet, A History and Forecast. Lots of exciting and scary predictions – like with the Internet wired into our brains, we’ll do search just by thinking. Which brings us to the cloud, Google and gatekeeping…
Q.2 – Will we live in the cloud or on the desktop?
A. By 2020, most people won’t do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications, like Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones. Aspiring application developers will sign up to develop for smart-phone vendors and companies that provide Internet-based applications, because most innovative work will be done in that domain, instead of designing applications that run on a PC operating system. Continue reading