competitive-trade issues Archive

It is time for YouTube to face competition

Amazon Echo Show in kitchen press picture courtesy of Amazon

Google not allowing Amazon to provide a native client tor the popular YouTube service on the Echo Show highlights how much control they have over the user-generated video market

Over the last many years, YouTube established a name for itself regarding the delivery of user-generated video content through our computers. This included video created by ordinary householders ranging from the many puppy and kitten videos through to personal video travelogues. But a lot of professional video creators have used it to run showreels or simply host their regular content such as corporate videos and film trailers, with some TV channels even hosting shows for a long time on it.

After Google took over YouTube, there have been concerns about its availability across platforms other than the Web. One of the first instances that occurred was for Apple to be told to drop their native YouTube client from iOS with users having to install a Google-developed native client for this service on their iOS devices.

Recently, Google pulled YouTube from Amazon’s Echo Show device ostensibly due to it not having a good-enough user interface. But it is really down to Google wanting to integrate YouTube playback in to their Google Home and Chromecast platforms with the idea of running it as a feature exclusive to those voice-driven home assistant platforms.

YouTube Keyboard Cat

Could the Web be the only surefire place to see Keyboard Cat?

These instances can affect whether you will be able to view YouTube videos on your Smart TV, set-top box, games console, screen-equipped smart speaker or similar device. It will also affect whether a company who designs one of these devices can integrate YouTube functionality in to these devices in a native form or improve on this functionality through the device’s lifecycle. The concern will become stronger if the device or platform is intended to directly compete with something Google offers.

There are some video services like Vimeo and Dailymotion that offer support for user-generated and other video content. But these are services that are focused towards businesses or professionals who want to host video content and convey a level of uninterrupted concentration. This can be a limitation for small-time operators such as bloggers and community organisations who want to get their feet wet with video.

Facebook is starting to provide some form of competition in the form of their Watch service but this will require users to have presence on the Facebook social network, something that may not be desirable amongst some people. Amazon have opened up their Prime streaming-video platform to all sorts of video publishers and creators, positioning it as Amazon Video Direct. But this will require users to be part of the Amazon Prime platform.

But for people who publish to consumer-focused video services like YouTube, competition will require them to put content on all the services. For small-time video publishers who are focusing on video content, this will involve uploading to different platforms for a wider reach. On the other hand, one may have to use a video-distribution platform which allows for “upload once, deliver many” operation.

Competition could open up multiple options for publishers, equipment / platform designers, and end-users. For example, it could open up monetisation options for publishers’ works, simplify proper dealing with copyrighted works used within videos, open up native-client access for more platforms, amongst other things.

But there has to be enough competition to keep the market sustainable and each of the platforms must be able to support the ability to view a video without the user being required to create an account beforehand. The market should also support the existence of niche providers so as to cater to particular publishers’ and viewers needs.

In conclusion, competition could make it harder for YouTube to effectively “own” the user-generated consumer video market and control how this market operates including what devices the content appears on.

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Competition arises for the online games storefront

Articles

GOG Galaxy client app (Windows)

GOG Galaxy client app (Windows)

Steam vs. GOG Galaxy: Which is service better for PC gamers? | Windows Central

Why I’m switching from Steam to GOG for PC gaming | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Good Old Games (GOG)

Homepage

Galaxy client app

My Comments

When computer games developers moved away from delivering their game software to regular-computer users from packaged media to “download-to-own” digital delivery, there wasn’t really any competition. The options that become available were to supply the software through an online storefront that the developer creates for their imprints, a platform-specific app store run by the operating-system developer like Apple’s Mac App Store or Microsoft’s Windows Store, or to end up using Valve’s Steam online storefront.

Steam – the established games storefront

Steam was considered a good-quality online games storefront and gaming community but they got to that point where they became too proud of themselves and started to strip away desirable features or throw their weight around such as banning users for offering negative reviews.

The competition that is now rising up is Good Old Games or GOG for short. This electronic storefront and gaming community ran by CD Projekt have answered what computer gamers have always wanted. One of these is to offer value for money such as offering DLC (downloadable content – the extra content that extends a game’s value) as though it is part of the game rather than a separate title. Another was to offer DRM-free games that are really “download-to-own” along with underscoring an honour-driven carrot-based approach to tackling software piracy.

This means that you could do something like run the game without needing to be signed in to the storefront or be connected on the Internet. This can be of a bonus with those of us who use a laptop for gaming while away from home and you don’t have to lose your gaming content if GOG collapsed or was taken over by someone else. Some games can also benefit by allowing users to install copies of the game on multiple computers connected to the same network thus opening up to traditional network-based multi-player multi-machine gameplay. Thee is still the ability to save your game in the cloud along with a chat community which you would want to log in for.

One of the key features being drawn out is for GOG to support reissues of vintage and classic game titles. Here, they have revised these games to convey the same legacy feel that they offered yet are able to have them run on today’s hardware.

What I like about the rise of competition in the online retail games storefront space is that everyone involved has to treat their customers better and underscore value for money when it comes to selling games. It also means that there is pressure for these storefronts also to treat the games developers fairly and provide more avenues for these studios to sell their wares, rather than the developers having to reinvent the wheel by creating their own storefront every time they want to sell their games online in a location other than Steam or platform-specific app stores.

It could be seen as GOG being like the “indie” bookstore, record store or video store that appear in inner-urban areas of the major cities, the college towns or other areas that have that “cool” factor. This is compared to Steam positioning itself like one of the major book, music or video store chains that appears in most suburban areas or regional cities.

Similarly, it could open up the idea of Amazon and other online storefronts reaching towards the “regular-computer” gaming scene by setting up their own gaming storefronts. Here, it can lead to a vibrant multi-platform regular-computer (Windows/Mac/Linux) gaming marketplace that pleases both the gamers out there as well as the games developers including the indie studios. As well, like what is happening with the video-on-demand marketplace, it can open up the idea of niche gaming storefronts that cater to particular classes of gamers.

It is the sign of things to come for regular-computer gaming to see multiple retail online games storefronts starting to appear thanks to GOG.

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Congress attempts to restore competition to telephony and Internet in the USA

Article

Eshoo Pushes Bill to Prevent Protectionist State Broadband Laws | Broadband News & DSL Reports

My Comments

AT&T Touch-Tone phone - image courtesy of CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=936797

Is the US telecommunications industry heading back to the days of these phones?

An issue that I have been regularly covering is the reduction of competitive telephony and broadband service in the USA. This is thanks to incumbent “Baby Bell” telcos and cable-TV companies effectively paying state governments to pass legislation to proAhibit local governments from setting up their own broadband infrastructure to compete with these established providers.

The FCC had attempted to use its federal mandate to override these laws but these efforts were being struck down thanks to litigation instigated by these established companies. Again this was leading towards a telecommunications and Internet-service environment that is reminiscent of the “Ma Bell” era, with the price-gouging, poor customer service and onerous terms and conditions.

But Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents the Silicon-Valley area in the House of Representatives, had submitted a bill to Congress in order to assure the provision of infrastructure-level competition by local governments and communities. Here, this law – the Community Broadband Act of 2016 (PDF) would prohibit state governments from passing the telco-funded legislation that proscribes this infrastructure.

There is some doubt about the proposed legislation becoming law thanks to the US Congress also being subjected to lobbying and graft from big-business interests including the telecommunications and cable-TV cartels. But most of the US’s consumer-advocacy groups are behind the law in order to defend a competitive telecommunications and Internet market.

One major quote that was called out was the fact that the current situation is placing rural communities at a disadvantage because the “Baby Bells” or cable-TV companies wouldn’t either roll out decent-standard broadband or people in those areas would be paying monopoly prices for poor service.

As I have said before, the telecommunications and Internet-service market in the USA would need to be under strong surveillance in the context of antitrust and competition issues. This would include control over company mergers and acquisitions; and even the issue of whether legal action similar to what was initiated in 1974 with “Ma Bell” needs to take place with Comcast, AT&T and co.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=936797

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AT&T charging less for Gigabit Internet service in some cities–Why?

Article US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Want cheaper AT&T gigabit service? Move to a Google Fiber city | The Register

My Comments

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

A competitive Internet service market coming to more US cities

Regular readers will know about Google Fiber showing up in an increasing number of US cities and bringing real competition to the US fixed-line broadband Internet market.

Before Google Fiber came to these cities, there was a very cosy cartel between the local “Baby Bell” telecommunications company who provided DSL Internet service and the local cable TV company who provided cable Internet service. This led to a woeful Internet experience where there wasn’t value for money and, in some cases, there was poor customer service, something that affected householders and small-business owners in most of the USA. The big telcos and the cable TV companies even were working with state governments to frustrate the creation of competitive services so that they can maintain the status quo.

Now the presence of Google Fiber has even raised the idea that you could sign up to AT&T’s 1Gbit/s GigaPower service for an ask of US$70 in Nashville or Atlanta while the same service would go for US$110. There was even a situation in Raleigh where the existing ISPs were deploying high-speed networks in that city with a photo of AT&T’s U-Verse announcement door hanger on someone’s front door appearing in the comments trail of that article.

Personally, I would see it become real that any American city that Google Fiber touches will become an attractive city to live or run a small business in because the costs of decent Internet service have reduced due to the arrival of competition.

Keep up the work, FCC and the competing Internet service providers including Google!

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Achieving the goal of a competitive Internet service

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

A competitive Internet service market is lively and for the end user

The common problem

A market with one Internet-service player, described as a monopoly, is at risk of poor customer service and prices that don’t represent real value.  A similar situation can occur where there are two or three players colluding together and this can be described as a cartel or oligopoly.

In some situations, the Internet service providers can engage in activities that are hostile to the customer such as bandwidth limiting, contracts with onerous terms and conditions or simply refusing to invest in the Internet service they provide.

How is the Internet service constructed?

The Internet service that we buy consists of various components, namely the wired or wireless infrastructure that brings the service to the customer’s door, the off-ramps from various national and global Internet backbones and the Internet services which are provided on a retail basis to the customers.

Ownership approaches

The North American approach

Infrastructure for the exclusive use of the communications company

In the USA and Canada, the retail Internet service is provided by companies who own the infrastructure, the off-ramps from the backbones along with the “to-the-customer” functions. Sadly this has led to a situation where few companies exist to provide this service – one for each wired or wireless broadband medium. This is represented by a cable-TV firm providing cable-modem service, a “Baby Bell” telephone company offering ADSL or fibre-optic service along with one or two wireless (cellular) telephone providers offering mobile broadband.

The European model

An established telephony infrastructure owned by the incumbent telephony company but leased to other ISPs.

But in Europe, Asia and Oceania, there is a different approach. This is where multiple companies, including the incumbent telephony companies provided wholesale Internet service which was sold by different retail ISPs that used the same physical infrastructure which was the copper telephone cabling.

These countries typically had an incumbent telecommunications company that was initially part of the national government’s post-telephone-telegraph ministry and was typically split from the post office, ran as a government entity then fully privatised. Such companies were often charged with providing the universal telephone service including the public payphones installed in the streets and managing the national emergency telephone service i.e. 999, 000 or 112 and they owned the abovementioned established telephone infrastructure.

But there was still the ability for other companies like cable-TV companies to use other wired and wireless infrastructure for their Internet offerings.

The problem here was that the incumbent telephony provider “taxed” the other providers for using the established telephone infrastructure to provide an ADSL service in an unfair manner, such as by requiring the rental of their equipment and requiring customers to subscribe to a local “dial-tone” telephony service through these providers even if they just want Internet service.

Key issues

Access to established infrastructure by competitors

One issue that is always raised is allowing competing telecommunications providers to have access to established telecommunications infrastructure, especially wireline infrastructure. There were issues where the incumbent telecommunications company would frustrate this access through onerous costs or service requirements levied on competing providers and their customers who wanted to use this infrastructure.

Unbundling the connection between the customer’s premises and the exchange

Instead, this has lead to the arrival of “local loop unbundling” or “dégroupage” where the wires between the customer’s door and the telephone exchange were effectively handed over to the competing operator. Typically this is facilitated through the incumbent telco renting rack-space in their exchanges out to competing operators and connecting the subscriber to the competing ISP’s equipment in that rack-space. A variant of this technique is “sub-loop unbundling” where the competitor connects to the subscriber at the local telecommunications distribution point in the street or the telecommunications wiring closet in a multiple-tenancy building.

ADSL service that is independent of dial-tone telephony service

Another tactic is to allow the sale of a “naked” or “dry-loop” DSL service which doesn’t require the customer to rent a local “dial-tone” telephony service from the incumbent telco. This meant that the wires were just to be used just to provide Internet access and a voice telephony service was either provided as a VoIP service or the customer had to subscribe to a mobile telephone service. This has been practices in Australia, France and a few other countries but not in the UK.

This service appeals also to customers who used to maintain a separate telephone line for a fax machine or dial-up Internet but want to use those wires for a dedicated ADSL data path with all the benefits of better throughput.  They can maintain their main telephone line for their classic voice telephone service with a traditional telephone as a “lifeline” independent of local power conditions or a “catch-all” phone number for the household.

Removal of infrastructure control from the incumbent telco

But this elephant of monopolistic practices didn’t go away while the incumbent telco had control of the wires to the customer’s door. Instead, some countries used various procedures to remove the infrastructure from the incumbent telco’s control and either require these assets to be divested to a separate company or to be nationalised where they owned by the nation’s government.

If this was a separate legal company that was owned by the telco, the situation was called “functional separation”. This would require the telco to sell retail service through its own entity while access is sold via that separate legal entity.An example of this is BT Openreach who maintains the infrastructure for the UK’s telephony and Internet service while BT supplies retail telephony and Internet service to customers but competitors use Openreach to provide telephony and Internet service.

On the other hand. “full separation” would require the infrastructure to be nationalised or owned by another entirely different business entity and the incumbent telco would be required to rent the infrastructure and use the infrastructure to sell their telecommunications services. This is while competitors can rent this same infrastructure to sell their telecommunications services.

Competing infrastructure providers

There has been the creation of competitive infrastructure, typically in the form of coaxial cable by cable-TV providers and cellular radio setups for mobile-telephony services. These were then set up for Internet service through the gradual evolution of technology. Similarly, some towns had their own copper and fibre infrastructure that was owned by a separate entity to provide a telecommunications service for that area or leased back to the incumbent telco.

But this idea was taken up in a strong manner in some markets where competing infrastructure companies who just owned the wires and leased these wires to other providers and/or offered a retail Internet service to these markets. The UK have moved along this path with some fibre-optic deployments in rural areas, more as a way to seek independence from British Telecom. It is a similar path in France where multiple retail ISPs established partnerships who owned particular fibre-optic infrastructure.

An issue that is being examined by regulators is the ability for competing interests to build infrastructure of the same technology in the same area for the same purpose, commonly described as “build-over”. This could allow a retail ISP to choose a particular infrastructure for the best package or allow them to provide the same service across multiple infrastructures.

Similarly, in North America, the established telcos and cable-TV companies were paying US state governments to prohibit the deployment of infrastructure for competing Internet service. It was perceived as a way to stop local government and other public-minded organisations from spending public money on providing free wireless Internet as a community service in competition to the established operators. This allowed for comfortable oligopolies to exist between these established players and, among other things, had ruined the quality of service and value for money Internet users experienced.

Google and a few other private operators set up Gigabit fibre Internet service at prices that most could afford in a few neighbourhoods using their own infrastructure and this opened up the floodgates of competition. This along with various laws and regulations put up by Uncle Sam had improved access to Internet service which was about better value for money.

Pay-TV and multiple-play services

Foxtel IQ2 pay-TV PVR

Access to desirable content by all Pay-TV providers including telcos and ISPs helps with competitive Internet service

Another issue that is creeping up in some markets is the provision of subscription multiple-channel TV. This was typically provided by a cable-TV provider or a satellite-TV provider who owned the infrastructure on an “end-to-end” model.

But there is interest amongst telecommunications and Internet providers in the concept of providing a pay-TV service as part of a “multiple-play” offering, something which the traditional cable-TV providers could do with their infrastructure. These “multiple-play” packages typically include landline telephony, pay-TV and/or broadband Internet with some packages offering mobile telephony and mobile broadband Internet.

Such services appeal to most of us because of the ability to have “all the eggs in one basket” with only one account to think of and pay to obtain telephony, pay-TV and Internet.

Previously, a telco or ISP would deliver these services if they had a contractural arrangement with a cable-TV or satellite-TV provider and this involved installation of extra infrastructure at the customer’s premises. Now this involves a “single-pipe triple-play” setup based on IPTV technology which makes it feasible for an ADSL-based or fibre-based provider to offer multichannel pay-TV as part of their service offerings without needing to support new infrastructure.

These providers may run their own pay-TV service such as what Telstra, BT and most of the French ISPs do and solicit the content to show on these services themselves. On the other hand, they would sign up to an IPTV franchise which solicits the content itself and provides it to multiple telcos and ISPs. An example of this is the Australian Fetch TV franchise who offers pay TV to independent ISPs. In some cases, a traditional pay-TV provider could offer their services as an IPTV service as well as through their own end-to-end infrastructure and franchise it to ISPs and telcos.

Access to desirable TV content

A problem that is showing up in the UK and could show up in Australia and other markets where there is a dominant pay-TV provider like Sky or Foxtel is the availability of desirable TV content, whether as particular channels or shows, only through that dominant TV provider rather than through other pay-TV services like IPTV services.

Typically a content provider like Viacom or the BBC would offer channels of particular content like MTV, Comedy Central or BBC First for people to subscribe to. A dominant pay-TV provider would obtain the content on an exclusive basis so that a competing pay-TV provider like a telco or IPTV franchise can’t make these channels available to their customers for the duration of the contract.

This is augmented if the local outpost of a particular channel which is supplied via the dominant pay-TV provider obtains exclusive TV rights to a popular sports event or movie. The UK example would be for Sky Sports owned by Sky TV obtaining exclusive rights to the  Premier League soccer (association football) matches while the Australian example is for one of Foxtel’s premium channels to obtain exclusive rights to “Game Of Thrones”. Here, they can play a rough hand with these shows by: running them on premium channels only available to “platinum-package” subscribers, even making it hard for commercial (hotel/restaurant/bar) subscribers to play these shows; not completing their screening obligations in order to inhibit access to the show by free-to-air TV, “over-the-top” video-on-demand services or home video; or even trying to frustrate access to radio-broadcast or online-service rights for the hot games so you can’t get play-by-play commentary unless you subscribe to their sports channel.

Such situations lead to customers taking out multiple pay-TV subscriptions and dealing with multiple set-top boxes in order to get the video content that they want. That is if the dominant pay-TV provider will only deliver their service in an “end-to-end” fashion requiring the customer to install their infrastructure and set-top box.

Personally, I would like to see limitations placed on exclusive-access contracts for pay-TV channels so that a particular MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor – a Pay-TV provider) cannot tie up channels for their own exclusive access. It could be facilitated through an open “wholesale-retail” market for each content provider and pay-TV provider where content packages and channels are sold to pay-TV providers as though the content provider is a wholesaler and the pay-TV provider is a retailer.

In the USA, the FCC have achieved this goal with satellite TV by making it hard for cable-TV companies to tie up content so that DirecTV and DISH can’t screen that content or have to pay too much. They are working towards extending the rules about that situation to encompass telcos and others using IPTV methods.

There will be other issues that need to be looked at such as differentiating between “first-run” and repertory screening when determining the conditions of a contract affecting a show’s broadcast in order to prohibit tying up of shows so it takes too long for them to appear on home video or other screening platforms.

Net Neutrality

Another key issue that is raised in the context of Internet services is Net Neutrality. This is where everyone has equal access to the Internet as a highway.

It is compared to practices by various telcos and ISPs who would make it hard for customers to gain access to Internet services unless the company providing these services paid the ISP for a high-throughput path. This was feared because it would make it harder for small-time publishers and new startups to be seen by their customers.

It has been the subject of debate and is something I mention in the same breath as competitive Internet service. A competitive Internet market would provide proper benefit to customers in the form of value for money and if a customer couldn’t benefit from a particular Internet resource like, say, Wikipedia; they would want to “jump ship” to someone who provided the proper throughput.

Conclusion

To maintain a healthy Internet-service market that allows us to make the best use of this technology, there needs to be a strong effort to assure sustainable competition. This includes government departments that oversee telecommunications and competitive-market issues maintaining that level of competition by removing encumbrances and protections for established operators along with limiting market consolidation.

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Google’s impending arrival in Raleigh raises the bar for Internet service quality

Article

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

Competition for Internet service is real where Google Fiber passes

Google Fiber Network Build underway in Raleigh | Broadband News & DSL Reports

From the horse’s mouth

Google Fiber

Deployment Page for Raleigh-Durham

My Comments

Google had just started rolling out their Google Fiber next-generation broadband service in Raleigh, North Carolina. But even when Google announced the impending arrival of this service to that neighbourhood, the existing ISPs took notice and were suddenly on their good behaviour.

They were infact rolling out higher-speed networks or improving the speed of their networks in that area. Someone posted in to the article’s comments thread a picture of an AT&T door hanger on his front door announcing the arrival of their improved U-Verse fibre-optic service in the commenter’s neighbourhood.

What is showing up in that once some serious competition comes on the scene, the existing carriers will do their best to keep their customers. But Uncle Sam still needs to work hard to encourage this competition by overriding any state laws or local ordinances written at the behest of the cable-TV / Baby-Bell cartels that control the Internet service in those neighbourhoods.

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Four-play service competition intense on both sides of the Channel

Article

Brit mobile firms in FOURPLAY TUSSLE – how very French of them | The Register

My Comments

Same level of competition for quad-play services in France and the UK

Same level of competition for quad-play services in France and the UK

France and the UK have recently become hotbeds for Internet-service competition whether at a pure-play (single-service) level or with packages that integrate landline telephony, fixed broadband Internet and / or multichannel pay TV. Those companies typically are offering this service via a “single-pipe” setup with some of them reselling content and services from competitors who offer it on a wholesale basis if they can’t sell it directly.

This has been due to government telecommunications and competitive-trade authorities enforcing real competition through measures like stopping incumbent operators from selling wholesale service to competitors under unfair terms compared to their retail offerings. As well, in France, it took Free to offer broadband and triple-play packages with increased value at ridiculously-low prices to effectively “shake up” the market and start this level of competition.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

The smartphone to be part of cost-effective home telecommunications and pay-TV packages in the UK

Now this is being expanded towards “four-play” or “quadruple-play” services that include mobile telecommunications along with the fixed telephony, “hot and cold running Internet” and pay TV. This is facilitated typically through their own mobile networks or buying mobile telecommunications from an established. typically pure-play, mobile operator on a wholesale basis as a “mobile virtual network”. Some companies may call the mobile broadband service as a distinct service and describe the packages that include this service as “five-play” or “quintuple-play” packages.

Over previous years, France has established an example of a healthy competitive market for this level of telecommunications and entertainment service. This is with all their telcos and broadband operators offering the “boxes” which integrated telephony, broadband and pay TV at some very keen prices, something I have covered regularly on HomeNetworking01.info. But most of these providers either have their own mobile infrastructure over the country or are putting themselves in a position to set up mobile virtual networks that they resell with their packages. An example of this is Free selling mobile telephony to their customers for an extra cost that is effectively “pennies’ worth”.

The way this level of service has come about for a lot of the UK operators is through varying levels of consolidation and business partnerships. A lot of these consolidations and partnerships have been with the companies who offer one or more services that can complement their own service packages to construct the “quad-play” package. But one of the situations that this has led to is for BT who sold off their Cellnet mobile-telephony service to O2 which is part of Spain’s Telefonica company in the 1990s, wanting to buy back the mobile network from this telco to run as the “mobile arm” of their quad-play package.

The directions that this could lead to include the availability of private femtocells that provide local mobile-phone coverage for the customer with the broadband connection serving as a backhaul or “cellular over Wi-Fi” for voice calls on one’s smartphone; TV Everywhere which is about access to the pay-TV packages anywhere in the country with your laptop or mobile device; and integrated landline / mobile telephony setups i.e. to receive calls destined to your landline on your mobile phone for no extra cost or call from home using your mobile phone at home-phone tariffs. As well, multiple-mobile-device Internet service could become very much part of the packages which can cater to those of us who maintain more than one mobile-broadband device like a “Mi-Fi” device.

Even integration of “over-the-top” telephony services like Skype and Viber could become the norm for these service providers by allowing customers to make or take calls through these services via either the mobile or the landline phone for nothing.

Other countries like the USA, Germany or Australia could be highly aware of this level of competition and know how to be prepared when it hits their shores or to know how to encourage it in a viable and sustainable manner.

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FCC intends to place over-the-top Internet TV on a par with cable TV

Article

FCC Moves to Give Internet Video Same Rights as Cable Co’s | Broadband News and DSL Reports

From the horse’s mouth

US Federal Communications Commission

Tech Transitions – Video And Future (Blog Post)

My Comments

The recent US Supreme Court decision against Aereo has shown up how facilities-based multichannel TV providers i.e. cable and satellite TV providers have the upper hand with negotiating access to content offered by the Hollywood studios and sports leagues.

But the FCC are considering allowing “over-the-top” Internet TV providers access to this same content on a par with the likes of Comcast and DirecTV. This is also in response to the fact that many American TV viewers are ending up with cable or satellite TV packages full of content they don’t want i.e. “57 channels and nothing on”.

The issue with the current situation is that Internet-based “over-the-top” TV providers aren’t placed on an equal footing to the big cable-TV providers. This is similar to how the US Congress passed laws requiring satellite TV providers like DirecTV and DISH to have access to the channels on an equal footing to cable-TV providers and this opened the doors to competition.

The opportunities provided by the Internet-based “over-the-top” services are many including the ability to provide TV content packages that are pitched at niche markets in a cost-effective manner. This includes providers that could focus on foreign-language content, wholesome family-friendly programming, and content pitched at expatriates. As well, it opens up the concept of increased carriage-service competition which can increase viewer choice and, hopefully, access to what the viewer really wants.

There is also the concept of taking a “technology-neutral” approach which also allows pay-TV companies and content providers to use a choice of technology to distribute the TV content to the end-user. This means that the likes of HBO, CBS, Comcast and co to implement Internet-based approaches thus increasing reach to a wider market. There is also the hope that this approach will heat up the demand for next-generation broadband through the US and increase the average bandwidth that Americans can enjoy.

For this to work, the FCC need to pass these rules without being sabotaged by Big Money. which is a problem that still dogs American politics.

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In some areas, a court case may be necessary to encourage innovation

Article

US judge makes Avaya give access to maintenance commands on some PBXes | PC World

My Comments

A recent US District Court (New Jersey) ruling was handed down requiring Avaya to expose maintenance commands for their business phone systems after the jury who heard an antitrust case concerning this company found that they unlawfully prevented maintenance access to these systems for their owners or independent third-party service contractors.

This case was about who can perform repair or maintenance work on IT systems especially where they are becoming more software-defined. The article even mentioned that this is heading out beyond the IT scene towards the maintenance of cars, “white-goods” and similar products especially as more of them have their functionality driven by software.

For example, I know of two friends who have had technicians look at their 30-plus-year-old ovens and the technicians have preferred to keep them going rather than replace them with newer ovens. This is because of issues like continual availability of parts for these stoves and the way that they can be repaired.

Here, it was about who can continue to perform service on the equipment concerned and the availability of the equipment’s owner to gain access to independent experts to keep it going. I see this also opening up doors for third-parties to continue to offer innovative software or other solutions that enhance the equipment or shape it to a user’s needs. This will extend to encouraging the implementation of “open-frame” designs for hardware and software which will push forward a culture of a level playing field and, in some cases, a longer service life for equipment.

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Allowing competitive infrastructure can help US broadband

Article

Killing Muni-Broadband Bans First Step to Helping U.S. Broadband | Broadband News & DSL Reports (USA)

My Comments

As previously covered, the US broadband Internet service is heading down the path of a poor-value service. This is due to very cosy duopolies and cartels that exist in providing this service on both the fixed and mobile platforms and are placing householders, small business and community organisations at a disadvantage.

This article is highlighting how the state governments are doing their bit to protect these cartels by passing laws that proscribe companies and local governments from deploying their own infrastructure to provide retail communications services in their neighbourhoods. These laws came about when various local governments were setting up free public-access Wi-Fi services for their constituents and this activity was disturbing the likes of Comcast and the Baby Bells.

But the issue is being highlighted again by Google launching their own Google Fiber service which has its own infrastructure and has an intent to provide next-generation broadband at next-generation speeds for rock-bottom prices. The same issue could be raised concerning a competing provider who uses other technologies like fixed wireless or even their own coaxial cable to raise the Internet bar in a neighbourhood.

Some of these efforts may be to either provide real broadband Internet to rural communities or enable disadvantaged communities to have access to high-quality broadband. It also is about igniting business development and sparking up residential and commercial property values in various neighbourhoods, especially where a lot of business is being conducted online.

What is being raised in this article is to have some form of oversight concerning the state laws affecting the deployment of municipal or other competing retail broadband services. Personally, I would like to see these laws looked at in the context of antitrust (competition) issues, because they have been architected to protect uncompetitive behaviour.

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