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CES: Viewed From DC

This year, I missed the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show due to a cold. For those who have never attended CES, it is the electronics industry’s largest trade show where all the new and interesting products are dangled in public. Having missed the show itself, I have only been able to watch the product announcements from afar. In some sense, this is actually a better way to judge the show than being there in the midst of all the glitz and excitement.So what was this year’s CES all about? Video, video, and more video. Whether it was bigger, smaller, thinner, lighter, or cheaper, flat panel HDTVs were all the rage in CES announcement, as they have been for years. But video is bleeding far beyond just the living room, with cellphones with video, wireless video networking, and video Internet connections being added to TVs. Consumers want their video from any source on any device at any place. And increasingly, that video is going to be delivered across a broadband network. This is a trend that will accelerate over time.Now the flood of demand for video brings up two questions to me. The first is why can’t the industry make these devices compatible and easily interoperable with each other? As I am not a software architect, I have no idea how to solve this problem.The second question is how will the broadband networks handle the increased traffic coming from video? I am a telecom policy geek and have some insight into this question. Video presents new demands on the broadband access networks. It is partly a question the huge volume of data that video requires (several orders of magnitude greater than browsing or audio), but also the need to maintain a quality of service for the video stream itself. Without quality of service, the video packets will not arrive on time when the network is congested and the user will not have a good experience. The flood of video traffic means that service providers will need to increase overall capacity on their networks and also manage the traffic to provide quality of service. These increasing demands make it ever more important the regulators continue a deregulatory approach to broadband that encourages investment in infrastructure and the use of important network management technologies.So what did I learn from CES while stuck in my sickbed in DC? That onerous Net Neutrality regulations are a threat to our great video future.

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