Sunday, October 31, 2004

Advertiser Misses the Point, yet again

The Advertiser introduces a pernicuous bit of misinformation in its article "Consumers still guessing about fiber-optic costs." This reads a whole lot like a story that an editor asigned the intern and then forgot to review. As nearly as I can tell, however, the author is the business editor. Oh well...

The author conflates fiber optics networks with triple play offerings in both the title and the closing sentence of the story. The fact that she recites the technical differences in the middle of the story is only evidence that she profoundly misses the point and has no idea as to what the significance of these differences are.

Truth is, what is hidden from the reader of this piece is that triple play plans are not all created equal and that he difference lies precisely in what is conflated: an all fiber network will simply have the headroom to supply more services and enhanced services over its network. By offering more services an all-fiber network will be able to defray its costs over a larger number of products and, all things being equal, will be able to offer any one of the services for less money. It can offer ehanced services that simply will not be possible over the hybrid coax or twisted pair networks with which it competes. For instance: it is extremely doubtful that BellSouth can supply HDTV over its lines. Given its current architecture Cox will have a lot of trouble supplying many more HDTV channels that it currently does—an issue that looming regulation deadlines concerning local HDTV broadcasts of multiple HDTV streams and the cablecos' obligation to carry those makes very real. A full fiber optic system will have no such constraints and will not need to pray for new technology or regulatory relief to offer a full array of high-end services.

The article does a desultory job of listing, without totaling for the reader, the likely costs of independent elements of the triple play drawn from Cox and BellSouth figures in the region. It would make considerably more sense as an article about the triple play if it added up those figures and compared the services offered with the projected prices. After failing to let the reader know the likely totals for BellSouth or Cox it mentions the widely bandied about 85 dollar price for LUS services and signs off without informing the reader of the most salient point such an article about prices could have made: that LUS has firmly promised to undercut any triple play package in the market by 20%. If the story was supposed to help the consumer guess about triple play costs, as the title indicates, then missing that was to miss the presumed point of the story.

All in all, a sad display.

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