This week I posted on one of my favorite sites, LightReading. Their was analyst who was talking about how to define and encourage something called Open Access. I want to use this blog post to detail out a huge problem in telecommunications regulation and thought. It is basically the holding onto old ideas.
So, what is Open Access. As the analyst pointed out there is not a specific technical definition. However, the idea was that multiple service providers could provide service over a network. This is a version of what is called Structural Separation. By this, the company that physically brings service to your house would not necessarily be the same company that provided bits per second nor would it provide more advanced services. Now 10 years ago, this was a topic of great debate. In Utah, there was Project Utopia. This was a local community based Fiber to the Home provider. They allowed any company that wanted to to come to their serving office and provide services to their clients. Given that you have probably never heard of it, you can imagine it was not wildly successful.
So here we are in 2016. What I told the analyst was that Open Access was overcome by events. He just tried to go back to show me what Open Access was. The problem is that he missed the point of my entire post. Open Access has been replaced by Internet Service. When you buy Linear Pay TV (example Cable) it is what we call a “walled garden” service. You can only get it from the sole provider – the company that you get Access Service from. For me that is Comcast and Xfinity. The goal of Open Access wasn’t to compete with Comcast, but with Xfinity. The problem is that Over The Top (OTT) services are the new competition for long standing walled garden services. In Linear Pay TV, that includes Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and even things like Twitch TV.
Which is my point 1. The walled garden services are in decline from competition with OTT services. This has already started and is accelerating by all reports and studies that I have seen. So, why are we worried about competitive walled garden services when the real competition is OTT. It simply wastes time to worry about models that were great in 2005. We need to think about the way competition is going to be in 2025. Then the walled garden will be completely gone.
Which leads to point 2. This is a GREAT thing. Comcast uses a tiny fraction of its bandwidth in the Access to provide Broadband Services. If Comcast stopped doing Linear Pay TV, the amount of bandwidth available for OTT services would be dramatically increased. We are not there yet, but I think we can all see the day when very little if any of us have “Cable Service”. Just like I can see the day that Wireline POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). I have a phone jack on my cable box. I don’t own a phone that can plug into it. I just use my cell for everything. Young people are headed that way. So, why do we have Universal Phone Service still?
See what I mean with old ideas clogging up thinking about how we build the future?
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