Sunday, January 21, 2007

Net Devolution

It's sad to consider how much creativity is wasted re-creating the past. For example, radio was "theatre" brought into your living room, and television was "radio with pictures". Now we have netTV. Wired has a piece on the latest hot topic, the "Venice Project". Brought to you by the same folks who brought you Skype, the Venice Project (or "Joost" as it will become named), delivers all the content you could wish for, at the price everyone wants: free.

What's the catch?

Not much really -- just a customer relationship the likes of which you've never seen before.
In fact, this is such a DEEP relationship that the Surgeon-General advises you bend over, grab your ankles and take a very deep breath!
From the Wired article:

"The key in the past was volume and frequency," says Clark. "Now it's going to be quality."

One of the Leiden crew's top priorities is a backend ad engine that can pinpoint viewers by location, time of day, viewing habits, and opt-in profile information to serve up a perfect ad. Developed by open source geeks in privacy-centric Europe, the central database doesn't store any identifying data. Personal information is stored only on the user's own PC. Clark, the ad sales chief, is happy to blue-sky the possibilities: "Buy all the Desperate Housewives viewers in a zip code. Or the first thing a given viewer watches on a given day."

In theory, that kind of control will make the network much more valuable to advertisers. "We offer targeting they've never dreamed about in the TV world," says Werdelin. "And a deeper relationship with customers. Not just deeper than TV, but deeper than most of what you get on the Net. I don't think anyone really knows what those things are worth."
I don't know about you, but I'm certainly relieved to know this double-deep relationship is being stored on my PC!

All cynicism aside, haven't these folks learned anything from the Net? Do they have to be run over by Cluetrain before they get that "perfect ad" brain cramp knocked out of them? Is this why we're fighting for Net Neutrality?

It's natural to want to roll the most powerful aspects of one medium forward into the new medium. But let's leave the unnecessary baggage behind.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cell from Hell

"Unfortunately the system cannot process your entry, please try again later -- goodbye!"

This is the msg I got while trying to leave Doc some voice mail on his cell. Not that his mailbox was full, or that there is a preference for higher ARPU calls (since Doc and I have the same service from VeryHighZone). Just the equivalent of a fast busy, or translated into human communication: "go away while we deal with people who are paying us more". This is what customer relations has devolved to. Most people don't think about what is going on in these circumstances, but essentially two customers are being denied service that was paid for (not exactly cheap either!). I can only assume that because calls from other carriers generate more revenue, they are given priority over "in-house" calls.

We would never accept this from other business relationships: imagine getting your monthly magazine delivered only every other month, but still getting the full bill for renewal. Something tells me most people would be on the phone to the billing dept. But we quietly accept missed calls, dropped calls (there is a spot on HWY101 that drops my calls without fail), and numerous other outages or failure to deliver services paid for. And yet we pay significantly more for our phone bill than most other communication services! What bothers me most is that this may be where we are headed with the Net, if the carriers have their way. The walled garden approach is not only about keeping paying customers captive, but essentially holding them captive to other walled gardens in order to extract more fees. In this case it's called peering.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Not Even in the Race

On the Media had an interesting piece on wifi recently (transcripts and audio here). As with any radio show, much of the detail gets left on the cutting room floor, but what's noteworthy about this piece is how much they managed to squeeze in. In particular, Bob Garfield begins:

You can't run an efficient business on a bad connection, and it's increasingly clear you can't run an efficient city on one either, not to mention educate students or support economic growth.

That's why some 300 American municipalities are looking to offer wireless service, or Wi-Fi
I think 300 might be low, but it's a telling number nonetheless. Why are so many communities looking to do something that is bound to get them in hot water with their incumbent Net providers? Could it be that despite all the claims to the contrary, the network services being provided are too little for too much (and too late)? Could it also be that communities do not want to wait only to find they have been left out of their incumbents' upgrade plans?

Economic benefits of true broadband are so important that it cannot be left to decision-makers who have fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders (as it should be), not the community. And overall, we are falling so far behind, we may never be able to catch up:

The dozens of ISP options in European cities have led to much lower prices for much faster service than what's offered in the U.S. And after leading the world in Internet access and affordability, the U.S. is quickly falling behind.

MICHAEL COPPS: We're 21st, right behind Estonia.

MICHAEL COPPS: And other countries are cleaning our clock and getting a lot of bandwidth out to their folks at a cheap price. We know that we're not in the competition.

Can we afford to not be in the competition?

Friday, January 05, 2007

iProvo Sets the Record Straight

A recent "study" claimed to show that municipal broadband was a bad idea based on the example of iProvo (Provo, Utah). While good critical studies are welcome, bogus studies which are nothing more than a paid attack by vested interests need to be shelved along with the alien sighting reports. Fortunately, iProvo has put out its own response which deals with the inaccuracies and false conclusions drawn in the study: