Saturday, June 11, 2005

"Die TV. Die! Die! Die!" or "Why You Want Real Bandwidth"

Television is really aggravating. We are so used to it that we forget how irritating most of the time but occasionally something happens to remind us just how bad things are. And we go off on TV (and sometimes even go off it for awhile). But we almost never realize why it is so bad.

We hate our TV because of limited bandwidth.

A fella named Ernest Miller reminded me of this with a post of his called "Die Channel. Die! Die! Die!" Ernest is one of those brilliant men who sit down, locate a problem of real substance, and try to fix it. His area is the intersection of law and technology. He's at Yale now and is noted for his work on modern copyright issues. But his complaints about having to watch TV on someone else's scheduling and about the artificial lengths of TV shows is what led me to think once again about how irritating TV is.

And I think we hate our TVs because of long-standing bandwidth limits.

Things to be justly irritated by:
  • Your favorite show is scheduled at a fixed time every week. (But your schedule isn't fixed to match!)
  • Somebody in New York thinks all the good stuff ought to come on while you want to sleep. (And you refuse to change your sleeping habits or job to accommodate that New Yorker!)
  • Apparently there is some "normal" person in Kansas who all these shows is supposed to please mildly without offending very often. (But this fare pleases you about as well as the food in Kansas . . . you want something with a little more life!)
  • Someone has made up a rule that TV shows can only be shown in increments of a half-hour. (But you are irritated by shows that are have 23 minutes of decent content and 7 minutes of utter fluff!)
  • Every time something dramatic or interesting is about to happen on a TV show, they go off on a commercial break. (Even worse, you suspect that the only reason anything interesting happened was so that you'd hang around till the commercials were over!)
  • 212 channels and they can't find anything worth watching? (What's that about? A rerun of the Mary Tyler Moore Show is my best choice? Why?)
  • Not only that--but all that junk is expensive. (I hate paying for stuff I not only don't like but wouldn't have in my house if I had a choice!)
All that can be attributed to limited bandwidth -- to bandwidth that is rare and therefore expensive. Now nobody much thinks about it this way right now. But that is because you seldom can see what the problem is until it has been solved. And I suspect that the problem with TV is about to be solved.

The solution is Downloadable Video (DV instead of TV). You go to the internet and find the show you want to watch, (pay probably), download it, and watch it.

You can:
  • You can watch episode one at 7:12 one Wednesday night and episode two at 2:00 the next Thursday if it suits your schedule.
  • Watch your favorite show at 3:15 in the afternoon every day and sleep when you want, thank you very much.
  • You don't have to watch anything that that guy in Kansas would watch. And you don't have to eat his food, either.
  • Some episodes of a show are 52 minutes long and some are 68 minutes long and it is all good stuff, 'cause nobody bothers with fluff if it doesn't have to fit the schedule of some advertising executive.
  • The rhythm of DV shows is not determined by advertising breaks the way that TV shows are. The plot actually drives the show. At first it seems weird but it's easy to get used to.
  • You're not limited to 212 channels. Like bass fishing? Download your favorite show from 1982. Have a strange sense of humor? Download 12 Andy of Mayberrys and have a party with an Aunt Bee theme.
  • You pay for what you download. But you only pay for what you want to watch. None of that awful schlock. (Unless you like awful schlock--then you can have as much as you want—there is plenty.)
But you can't fix TV this way unless you have real, big, bandwidth—cheap. Fiber to the home is the way out of the wasteland. Nothing else will provide adequate bandwidth to do this and everything else you might want to do at the same time. It is the future. Even after we get big bandwidth it will take a while to mature. Only those companies that have capacity to burn will be able to compete. And only those communities that have really big bandwidth will get it early. It will be well worth having, don't you think? Replace your TV with DV.

You can put in an order on July 16th by voting Yes!, For Fiber.

7 comments:

Jon Fitzgerald said...

Great post.

JMF

GumboFilé said...

I do this now with my DishNetwork DVR.

John said...

No David Hays, you do not do the same thing with your DishNetwork Digital Video Recorder.

Any more than I do it with my TiVo setup. Having some paltry local storage lets me come close to some of it. The time-shifting part. If I plan ahead. (I'd like to see the last council meeting but hey, I didn't know that it would be interesting enough to plan ahead for.) It does not give me the potential to do any of the rest of it; not even close to all of it. It only makes time-shifting a little easier than it was with your old VCR. It does nothing to change the malign dynamics that is based on getting the most income out of a scarce resource. It does not change the fact that the underlying architecture of that scarce resource is broadcast: one to many.

The solution is to make the basic resource plentiful and hence cheap. And in the process to allow a change in the underlying model to a one to one direct exchange of value.

I would think this, at least, would seem congenial to you.

John St. Julien

John said...

Jon,

Glad you enjoyed it.

I'm always astonished by the argument that the "services" offered by by the incumbents are the same as the "services" LUS would be able to offer. This is so completely untrue that it is hard to find words that don't sound angry and dismissive. I think the slick sam video over at fiberfilmfestival.com does the best job of dealing with that without sounding mean. "Functional Equivalence" is profoundly and intentionally misleading and the most effective way to demonstrate that is through a little bit of satire.

I call this entire line of reasoning "the argument from lack of imagination." People who take it up are saying that because they can't imagine anything better to do with a lot of bandwidth than the package Cox or BellSouth is currently blessing them with then there must not be anything better to do with true broadband. Such people are just wrong. From video phones to true wireless broadband to educational scenarios fueled by massive databases,to massive distributed computing, to giving us a permanent, accessible record of every council meeting, to location-based services, to downloadable video fixing what's wrong with TV----even these few possibilities demonstrate that the potential is just as great as people have been saying for years.

GumboFilé said...

You're right. I think this is worth over $100 million.

David

John said...

Hi David,

I think I detect a bit of ironic tounge-in-cheek? Consider a wry smile exchanged.

John

GumboFilé said...

I've been very busy and it's keeping me from our repartée. I hope to find the time to write one last comprehensive letter before the election. Other than that you'll probably see a few abbreviated appearances here. I might also show up at a fiber jam. The Blue Moon is a favorite hangout of mine but I don't often go during the week. I'll see ya if I see ya.

David in Grand Coteau