Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The disintermediation of cable

The good folks of Longmont, Colorado are getting a gig fiber service to their homes and businesses. They are in addition to the 400 cities and towns that have rolled their own broadband with speeds and prices that are far better than the incumbents care to offer. Early adopters will be privy to 1 Gbs speeds up and down, for $50 a month. That is an incredible rate that no one at Comcast, Centurylink, AT&T, Time-Warner or Verizon will ever offer. They have shareholders to answer to.

But what I find so interesting is an observation made by the general manager of Longmont Power and Communications, Tom Roiniotis:
“Cable TV is a dying industry. People want to get the TV that they want, not the TV that the cable companies force them to get.”
When pressed for an example, Roiniotis considered sports. If you want to watch an NFL game, why should you have to pay for two hundred channels you’ll never even tune into? There is a growing consensus that audiences don’t want to watch the movie that happens to be on Showtime right now, they want to choose when to start, when to pause, and what movie they’re interested in. As he put it, “The consumer is finally becoming king in the world of TV.”
 He has summarized exactly how I feel about cable. I don't watch ESPN, don't care for it, but I must pay for it so that rabid sports fans can have their subsidy. I don't watch the movie channels because they aren't showing what I want to watch when I want to watch it. I prefer to stream everything and be able to pause when I want to pause. Then I can return to it when an interruption has been resolved.

He also notes that I'm not alone. Millions of viewers like me want more control over how we receive our content. I simply deplore the notion that I'm a trained monkey who will sit and watch what cable companies deem good enough to deliver when they want to deliver it. If there is something I really want to watch without interruption, I watch it early in the morning when everyone else is asleep. On my computer, with my headphones. Maybe someday in the future, I will have my own home theater, but that is for another article.

I've been so busy lately, that I really haven't had much time for TV. Even the news is not appealing to me. Just more news about angry people doing bad stuff to other people. Who needs that?

There is also a nice video that provides a physical demonstration of how fast a gigabit service would be. You can check it out here. I remember my first 1.5 mbs connection in 2001. It was 50 times faster than my humble modem. A gigabit connection is 20 times faster than my 50 mbs connection I have now, but I pay about $75 a month for it. Longmont residents will get gigabit service for $50 a month.

We're rolling our own here in Utah, too. Utopia is working carefully with Macquarie Capital to create a world class service that will connect every home and business in my city to gigabit access. It might not be as cheap as the service in Longmont, but it will be far better than what incumbent providers are willing to provide on performance and price. Shareholders and executives hold a higher position than customers with incumbent providers. But with numerous examples around the country, municipal broadband only answers to customers and voters.

Yeah, I like that idea. An internet service that must listen to customers first. What a concept.
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