Watch The Gatekeepers

This might be a choppy entry. I’ve already tried two analogies and failed. How to explain what I want to say?

I’ve just read an article on c|net which points to an upcoming controversy. As video shifts from broadcast to on demand (and make no mistake, that change is happening) will the gatekeepers allow unfettered access if that access diminishes another part of their business?

Is that obtuse? Am I making the point?

Try this. Lets say you own a high speed Internet provider. It could be a cable company or phone company or other business. It doesn’t make much difference because they are all becoming the same business.

Your customers are looking to download video programs over the fat pipe of data you bring into their home. Do you allow them to download programming that you currently sell… or want to sell? Can your customers pull an end around on your pay-per-view offerings, for instance?

If you’re a phone company, can your Internet customers use the Internet to hatchet your POTS (plain old telephone service) package?

An item in the Sunday edition of the industry newsletter Future of, published by Broadband Reports publisher Dave Burstein, quoted SBC’s chief operating officer, Randall Stephenson, as saying, “We’re going to control the video on our network. The content guys will have to make a deal with us.”

The brief item in the newsletter implies that SBC will block all video traffic traveling over its broadband network even if it comes from the public Internet. This means that SBC would essentially block video traffic from any Web sites that distribute video, if the content provider has not struck a deal with SBC.

SBC’s PR people were quick to say it’s not so. Then, the author of the original report actually put a comment on c|net, sticking by his assertions.

SBC’s comments are disingenuous. What I reported was that consumers would not be able to “access content of their choice”, nothing about port blocking. But SBC is limiting bandwidth the user can access to less than the speed of the live video on their coming service, and probably will compromise that bandwidth with excessive QOS, etc.


When an Internet provider in North Carolina limited its customers access to the Vonage VOIP phone service (which would eat into it’s phone business), the FCC quickly stepped in.

However, we’re talking about the big boys now. There’s a lot of money and control at stake. Actually, that sentence works better as: There’s a lot of money at stake with control.

I know this is a complex issue, and I’m not sure I’ve done it justice. Even if I haven’t explained it well enough for you to get every nuance, here’s what you should take home – People are currently fighting over the future of our communications infrastructure. It will affect you at home and at work. It will affect you in the wallet.

Juvenile Diabetes Walk to Cure

This is my ‘busy’ charity season. In fairly rapid succession I have the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, Blue Jeans for Babies and the Gateway Community College Awards Dinner.

I am very lucky. How many people have a TV station to ‘give away.’ Starting this afternoon I’ll be plugging the JDRF walk this weekend. Can I get more people to show up – get them more money for research? I don’t know, but I’d like to try.

Same thing with the March of Dimes and Gateway. Can I raise awareness? Does that translate into money?

Who knows how long the television business, or any business, will remain community spirited? I have seen, with other charities I help, that as local companies are bought by out-of-towners&#185 the commitment to local charity often dwindles.

Meanwhile, the JDRF walk is this Sunday. I have asked to borrow our copter and think I’ll get it, so we can get video and be at both Anthem Blue Cross in North Haven and Rocky Neck State Park. At this point, the weather looks good.

&#185 – In recent entries I had talked about SNET being bought by SBC. As far as I know their charity commitment remains high. This is a different local utility which is no longer locally owned.