Digital Television

Let cable operators compete

I want to comment on Adam Thierer’s recent paper, “Unplugging Plug-and-Play Regulation,” which makes several excellent points. Adam briefly summarized his thesis (i.e., there is no need for government “assist” in private standard-setting) here a couple days ago and generated a couple comments. The cable industry and consumer electronics manufacturers are touting competing standards initiatives. The pros and cons of each approach, from a technology perspective, are somewhat bewildering to a non-engineer like myself. But there appears to be one clear difference that matters a lot. Adam points out that under the initiative sponsored by the consumer electronics industry, the FCC would be empowered to play a more active role in establishing interoperability standards for cable platforms in the future. Read More ›

“National strategy” for broadband?

Japan has 7.2 million all-fiber broadband subscribers who pay $34 per month and incumbent providers NTT East and NTT West have only a 66% market share. According to Takashi Ebihara, a Senior Director in the Corporate Strategy Department at Japan’s NTT East Corp. and currently a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington, Japan has the “fastest and least expensive” broadband in the world and non-incumbent CLECs have a “reasonable” market share. Ebihara was speaking at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and his presentation can be found here. Ebihara said government strategy played a significant role. Local loop unbundling and line sharing led to fierce competition in DSL, which forced the incumbents to Read More ›

FCC is Backsliding

A Federal Communications Commission staffer reports that commissioners are considering a 30% cap on the number of households a single cable operator may serve. Multichannel News notes that a cap would primarily affect one company: Citing Kagan Research, Comcast recently told the FCC that it serves 26.2 million subscribers, or 27% of the country’s 96.8 million pay TV subscribers. Under a 30% cap, Comcast could, in a few years, find itself refusing service to customers seeking to sign up for its fast-growing voice-video-data triple-play bundle. The 30% cap would also effectively block Comcast from buying a cable company with more than 3 million subscribers. If cable operators were the only source of video programming, it might make sense to have Read More ›

Life After Network Football…

The NFL will show many of its own live games on its own cable channel (sub. req.) next year. No doubt games on its own Internet “channel” aren’t far behind. What’s a network or cable system to do? -Bret Swanson

The Internet IS “a la carte”

Yesterday at a Senate hearing on media decency FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced his support for “a la carte” cable TV pricing. In other words, pay for and receive only those channels you watch. Don’t waste money on unwatched content. Choose only family-friendly channels and block violence and sex. Or vice versa, for some, I suppose. Who could oppose such common sense? Martin’s a la carte endorsement reverses former chairman Michael Powell’s view that a la carte pricing economics wouldn’t work for cable TV companies and that it might actually hurt consumers by raising their cable bills. Martin, previewing a new, revised FCC study, offers some compelling evidence that last year’s FCC study was wrong about the economics and the Read More ›

A thought on the digital television transition

Spectrum auctions were justified as a way for the “public” to receive a “fair portion” of the value of the public spectrum resource. But spectrum auctions are really just another tax which has transferred billions of dollars from the pockets of consumers to the coffers of government. The cost of spectrum licenses is fully reflected in the cost structure, and thus the pricing, of mobile phone service – as it should be. The affordability and availability of mobile phone service suffers as a result. The tendency of some politicians to view spectrum primarily as a tool for balancing the budget is a huge obstacle to affordable and universal broadband. What’s the point? When Congress reconvenes next week, it faces the Read More ›

Ticking Time H-Bomb

Holman Jenkins writes in today’s WSJ that IPTV faces death in the need for Bells to win 33,000 separate cable franchise approvals in order to provide the service. The bad news is that there is another hurdle that could prove equally if not more constraining: Section 104 of the 1996 Telecom Act, which bars electronic redlining, a term Jenkins wrongly attributes to cable lobbyists. Actually, the NAACP coined it in the early 1990s. In the event, sec. 104 inserts “without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex” after the phrase “to all the people of the United States” in section 1 of the original 1934 Communications Act. Read literally this means Baptists must get service Read More ›