As the FCC vs. Cable struggle
continues, I can’t help but wonder if Chairman Kevin Martin isn’t spending too much time worrying about a problem which will be irrelevant at some point in the future.
Martin is trying to get cable companies to inexpensively lease their lines to independent programmers. He is also trying to reduce the cost of cable service and ensure a la carte delivery of channels
But I wonder if Martin is fighting the right fight at the right time.
You see, the cable lobby is very strong and they exert influence on politicians who in turn do their best to minimize the influence Martin has. In other words by taking on cable companies head on – even if this is best for customers, he will find himself losing prominence and having more of his initiatives second guessed in the future.
Moreover it should be clear that soon, an Internet television revolution will take place allowing consumers to view programming over the internet and subsequently rely less on cable for distribution.
Voice over IP was rolled out rapidly with the advent of Vonage and others paving the way. Companies like Neulion
are doing for TVoIP that Vonage did for VoIP. I have had a chance to visit Neulion and see their technology which allows high-quality (but not HDTV) television to be watched over a 700 kbps connection.
Just as a VoIP provider such as a Vonage supplies you with a box which connects to a broadband line and a telephone, Neulion supplies a box which connects to your broadband connection and television.
In the future, it will be commonplace to connect a computer to a TV. Apple and a number of other companies such as TiVo play in this space today.
I would argue that it will soon be infinitely easier for niche programming to be viewed over IP than via cable companies. TVoIP will only grow in importance over the upcoming years. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2008 holiday season does not see such devices as “must haves.”
So while Chairman Martin is on the right track in looking to make it easier for consumers to access niche content, the true future solution to this problem is TVoIP, not cable.
In my opinion, the biggest barrier to successful TVoIP is a lack of network neutrality. We need to ensure that service providers treat all broadband content the same or at least ensure a broadband provider does not purposely slow down any broadband content.
You may think this problem is something that doesn’t happen and is not worth dealing with but in reality Comcast has already been found
to be doing this exact thing.
Television prices are plummeting and the same is happening with computers. As these trends continue, the amount of programming consumed will grow exponentially and with it the bandwidth needed to effectively watch this programming.
If the FCC is truly committed to spirit of open competition in the television world, then network neutrality is what needs to be fought for and secured today. All other fights are merely speed bumps on the road towards a truly competitive television landscape.