Category Archives: cable

– Shocked, SHOCKED to learn …

Shocked over the FCC Chairman?

Shocked over the FCC Chairman?

I am schocked, SHOCKED to learn that an senior official of the Bush Administration would abuse his power, withhold information from the public and members of his agency, and attempt to manipulate data and information to advance his personal agenda, perhaps directing excess payments of up to $100 million to private companies.

Or, to continue the parallels with the 1942 movie classic Casablanca, “play it again, W”. (Yeah, I know the line “play it again Sam” was never in the movie!)

I’m not referring to the bungled management of Iraq in 2003-4 or the vast sums of money funneled in no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton. I’m referring to the majority staff report of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce, released this week, and its primary subject, the management of the Federal Communications Commission by Chair Kevin Martin.

My comment: DUH. The report is NOT news to those of us in local government who’ve had to deal with the FCC Chairman and the outfall of a few of his decisions over the past eight years.

Exhibit 1: Congress authorized the removal of UHF television channels 52 through 69, freeing 108 megahertz of spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band for other uses. This spectrum was really valuable because it has good penetration of walls and into buildings. The FCC auctioned most of this spectrum to wireless telecommunications companies with the money going into the federal treasury.

About 10 megahertz was reserved for public safety use: police, fire, and emergency medical services. Traditionally, cities and counties and regions have licensed and used spectrum allocated to them to build radio systems for public safety and general government. Spectrum allocated only for voice radio systems, that is. We expected the same kinds of licensing rules to apply to this valuable new chunk of spectrum, which could be used for “broadband” – essentially wireless Internet. Such spectrum could send building maps to firefighters, video from crime scenes, patient telemetry from medic units.

Under Martin, however, even that small piece of the 700 MHz spectrum was ripped from the hands of local government and was to be auctioned into the control of private companies. Only in the last few weeks – since the November 4th election and impending changes at the FCC – has this plan been derailed.

Exhibit 2: Martin demonstrated an active prejudice on behalf of telecommunications carriers by altering the rules for cable franchising. Under the Constitution, states, cities and counties control their streets and rights-of-way. Under the Telecomm Act of 1996, cities and counties franchise the companies who string cables on poles in those rights of way and then offer cable television and related services to consumers. The franchises funnel revenues and services (e.g. Internet access and cable TV at community centers) to the local governments.

But the FCC, under Martin, changed the rules – cities and counties are now forced to grant cable franchises within 90 days, but ONLY to telecommunications carriers who already operate within the jurisdiction. Anyone else wanting a cable franchise goes through the traditional process!

Under Kevin Martin, the FCC’s mantra apparently was “no telecommunications carrier left behind”. And cities and counties lost the ability to manage their own rights-of-way and airwaves on behalf of the public safety and welfare.

Certainly the FCC has done a lot of good work regulating the airwaves, telecommunications and cable, and there are a lot of talented FCC staff who are dedicated to serving the public.

They deserve a Chair of the Commission with similar values and ethical leadership.

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Filed under cable, Fedgov, radio, wireless

– Future Television

Cricket in the Kitchen

Cricket in the Kitchen

Original post:  28 May 2008
Brier Dudley, Seattle Times Technology Columnist, stays on the leading edge of Seattle-area technology.  His article in Monday’s (May 26th – Memorial Day) Times’ business section described the work of Microsoft TV via an interview with Enrique Rodriquez.   I’ll let you read the column here, along with an announcement by Microsoftabout touch-screen technology which – although available in tablet computers today – will apparently be integral to the next, post-Vista, version of Windows.   These developments helped crystalize some ideas of mine.
It is actually somewhat amazing that the commodity personal computer has been around since 1981 (thank you, IBM), along with a “video screen”.  Yet we’ve never successfuly melded it with that much more ubiquitous video screen – the TV.   It seems natural that TV’s should be computer monitors and computers should be TV’s.   Yet that marriage has been slow coming.
I certainly envision the day when most rooms in most homes have a flat-panel touch-screen TV.  Besides watching television and getting video on demand, there are a hundred applications for such a technology:  
• Web browsing, perhaps linked to a TV program.  How many times have you seen something interesting on TV and immediately gone to google … er … “Microsoft search” the subject for more information?
• And with a touch-screen, we get rid of all those damned remotes (three of the little goobers are within 15 inches of my left hand as I write this).  And maybe it is time for the “death of the mouse?”
• Interactive gaming (“Warcraft” or “Sim City” whatever the hot game is today) using a touchscreen. 
• Controlling all the appliances and utilities in your house (gee, did I turn the furnace down?).
• Two-way video calls (having a grandpa like me “virtually” over for dinner with my grandkids – well, my grandkid actually lives in the basement, but if she didn’t I’d want to make a video call often!).   Video telecommuting. 
• People could call 911 at the touch of a button (perhaps TOO easily), activate a camera and actually have an emergency medical technician or police dispatcher view an emergency.
All we need is really high speed broadband (“fiber to the premise”) and for Microsoft’s TV unit to succeed.  Go for it Enrique!

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Filed under broadband, cable, future of technology, video

Blogging Customer Service

Scouring Blogs - click imae for more

Scouring Blogs - click imae for more

Original post: 28 April 2008
“Stormy Times for Comcast” is the title of an article in today’s Seattle Times, written by Bob Fernandez of The Philadelphia Inquirer, hometown newspaper at the Headquarters of Empire Comcast (the article is here).   Fernandez writes about Frank Eliason, a Comcast manager whose job is to watch blogs with complaints about customer service, e.g. comcastmustdie.com, contact the complaining customers and try to solve the problems.  A noble (if, in the case of Comcast, often fruitless) endeavor.  Both the blogging and the job performed by Eliason are a powerful application of Web 2.0 technology.   What a great idea!
Gee, could we apply this to City government?   Should we create a blog which allows the residents of Seattle to talk about their experiences – positive and negative – with our water (which is pretty good stuff) or electrical serivce, or pothole-filling service or (heaven forbid, because they work for me) our cable-customer complaint line?  Fascinating thought …

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Filed under cable, customer service