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Did’ja Ever Wonder?

With apologies to Andy Rooney (not really), did you ever wonder why broadband isn’t free? Seriously. If I can access broadband, I have a computer or an electronic device so I’m of at least some economic stature that someone would want to market to (absent of course the $100 computer that is always rumored to be around the corner). You access broadband though an access point of some such…be it a wireless or wireline into the network…you can therefore (privacy concerns aside) be tracked by where you are accessing the network…stay with me…Are you close to a Taco Bell when you are accessing the network for free? Check your e-mail: there’s a coupon for two for the price of one tacos…or a free drink with the purchase of a burrito…no, not the bean burrito, it has to have meat. Vegetarians need not apply. Seriously, if I was a franchise owner of some sort and I could beam you a coupon or information on a sale then why wouldn’t I pay the network owner to give you that coupon or sale information. I’m already sending you coupons to your home using direct mail. Isn’t this the same thing? Except that I’m sending you direct mail when you are near or next to my store. It is basically the g-mail model, in my mind. You first have to opt-in if you want to use the service. By opting in, you agree to receive ads or coupons. For that, you get free network access. The coupon senders pay the bill and everybody is happy. At least in my universe.Also, did you ever wonder why it has taken so long to have a great digital camera, great phone, great PDA and great mp3 player all rolled into one? Seems like a no brainer. I have a nice Canon digital camera…a TREO (great PDA, okay phone)…and an IPod Nano…why can’t these all merge with a, say, Motorola RAZR and call it a day?Did you ever wonder why you can’t access wireless access points in airports or public areas using your cell-phone number as a log-in? Service providers are used to paying each other already, right? Is it the billing? Does T-Mobile already have the market cornered?Anyway, just a couple of thoughts.

What Happened To Civility in the U.S. Congress?

I had brunch with a US Senator this weekend and he said that the relationship between parties had gotten so bad in DC that the only issues likely to transact in the Senate this year were the things they “have” to do, i.e. budget and appropriations. Healthcare? Education? Public safety? Oh, those things likely have too much agreement to get anything done. If progress is made on any of these issues then the Republicans get credit because they are in charge of both houses of Congress — that the Democrats badly want back in the ’06 elections. And if legislation is passed with the help of both parties, then the Republicans can’t continue to bash the Democrats as stonewalling on the issues that the American people care about. Let’s face it, it’s good for fundraising. For both sides.I worked in the US Senate (not too, too long ago) when there seemed to be more reaching across aisles to pass bills and get stuff done. There seemed to be respect among colleagues. They could fundamentally disagree on the approach, but it was a diagreement based on fundamentally, true beliefs and not for political posturing. It was, in a word, civil. Where does the end of this current spiral downward begin? When is the beginning of the end of the caustic approach to “deliberative” government? It will likely take a leader to publicly reach out to the other side and say, “let’s forget about the R’s and the D’s next to our names and work together as Americans.” There was a time after 9/11 when this seemed possible. What happened?

Cisco Testimony Before House International Relations Subcommittee

Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Cisco Systems, offered testimony today before the House International Relations Subcommittee on Human Rights at their hearing, “The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?”His written testimony follows (Please click on permalink to read in full)Full hearing testimony can be found at: Read More »

Broadband: Slovenia in the Rearview Mirror

I was just perusing some broadband penetration rate figures and noticed that the US continues to fall further behind our international competitors. At the end of the 3rd quarter of 2005, we had fallen to 19th in the world, barely ahead of Slovenia. Former broadband laggard like France and the UK have now surpassed the US and we may fall out of the top 20 entirely soon. This is a slow building national crisis. As we continue to fall further behind, we may be crippling our economy in the long run.Now I know that the naysayers will say that it isn’t fair to compare the US to Korea and Japan in broadband penetration because of the higher population density. Fair enough. So let’s compare the US to Canada, which also has a huge rural hinterland. And what do we find? Canada’s broadband penetration is a full 1/3 higher than the US. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Canadian government made broadband deployment a priority long ago.One other interesting statistic I found was that Korean broadband penetration actually fell from Q2 to Q3 of 2005. Of course that still left Korea with 67 broadband connections per 100 households compared to 33 in the US. But it might be a sign of market saturation for broadband. If so, it just shows how far the US has to go to be internationally competitive in broadband.

EU: “Television Without Frontiers” Directive

The core regulatory work of the European Commission revolves around the creation of a working single market across the 25 member states of the European Union. The EU has developed a lot of other areas of interest but the economic issues have been a prime concern since its inception.A discussion I was involved in last week highlighted for me the challenges of trying to do this against a backdrop of a rapidly evolving global information society. This was on proposals to revise something called the Television Without Frontiers Directive. The Commission is seeking to impose a basic tier of regulation on all audiovisual services, including those delivered over the internet or mobile phones. Their rationale for this is that it is necessary to ensure that suppliers of these services can sell across the single market without further regulation. The regulatory process will take a while to complete so any new rules may come into force from around 2008-9. This is against a backdrop of Google launching the beta of which we can expect to develop significantly, along with a host of other competing services, between now and the new regulations being completed. When the new regulations come into effect these video services will presumably be told that they must comply with the EU-wide regulations or be subject to 25 different sets of national regulation or cease operating in the EU. If, as is likely, there are by then mature global services that are popular with European customers then we can anticipate an interesting power-play between regulators and service providers.The current situation in respect of online gambling may offer pointers as to how this could play out for audio-visual services, with an element of role-reversal between EU and US. UK-based gambling companies offer their services globally and say that it is up to local regulators in countries like the US to enforce their gambling rules on their own citizens. The stock market has expressed its view of the likelihood of gambling regulators effectively controlling behaviour by pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into gambling companies that draw revenue from a sizeable US user base. Investors in US-based audio-visual content services may make a similar judgement about the ability of EU regulators to impose rules on how their content is delivered or presented.