Verizon recently announced a plan option for its fiber-based broadband service where the focus is not just on the downstream speed (what you receive in your home) but rather the upstream speed (what you send to others). Here are the details from AP/Yahoo. This example, as is the case with broadband offer from SureWest and increasingly other providers, is indicative of providers fundamentally changing their model to match the needs of the rising, ever-changing, dynamic, at times confusing, and yet so appealing”empowered consumer” and their inherent desire for interactive, personalized experiences. No longer are users content with a”passive” experience, such as broadcast television in which both the content and the timing of delivery was determined by others. If users were interested in a particular show, they had to organize their lifestyle to accommodate the show’s schedule. With technology advancements, consumers were able to soon”Pick” content from their providers, where they were able to view the movie they wanted to watch using video-on-demand, or pick the type of content they wanted to surf with the introduction of the Internet. Soon thereafter, the desire of the consumer was one where they were interested to”participate”-where they could share their interests and interact with others through virtual communities. Even more quickly, this desire for expression evolved to where the consumers themselves”Produce” the content. They are no longer dependent on content created by others, but are able to create, remix, or develop content themselves and then share it with a global audience. This is where we are now, and is exemplified by the YouTube phenomenon, which started from nothing and within two years is one of the premier content distribution sites across all forms of media. It’s not just the amount that people watch, which is mind boggling and estimated to comprise of 10% of the internet traffic worldwide, but it is also the amount of new content added from empowered consumers -on average, six new hours of content are uploaded every minute of every day.As a result of this inherent need to communicate, share, and express themselves, networks are having to undergo a dramatic shift. For example, broadband used to follow a very similar model to television, where the upload experience was only a small fraction of the download one -it was very much a passive/pick type of relationship. As a result, they didn’t invest in as heavily in the upload requirements. Just as the empowered consumers’ expectations of the experience are changing, so too must the provider’s ability to deliver on it. This is exactly what providers such as Verizon, Surewest, and others are doing -it’s neither easy nor cheap, but it is yet another example of providers rising to the challenge and evolving to becoming experience providers. In turn, to keep up with to match the needs of the rising, ever-changing, and dynamic”experience provider,” Cisco is investing heavily as well to innovate and deliver intelligent networking technology. There is a lot to talk about on the need for intelligent network and on the innovation front, but I’ll leave that to some of our engineers to discuss more fully in future posts over the coming months.