I’m getting to this one rather late but I found an excellent article by Barry Flynn expressing disappointment with the UK Government for its failure to require digital terrestrial TV to have a return path. Now the horse has bolted – many digital terrestrial customers have already bought set-tops without modems and it will be hard to get them to switch if the Government wants to encourage egovernment or edemocracy applications through digital TV.
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It’s good to see the UK government has ambitious plans to ensure its citizens have Internet access. Recently British Telecom (responding no doubt to government pressure) announced it will guarantee that all of Britain will have “broadband availability by 2005”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3276621.stm – possibly to be accomplished using new “radio broadband”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3323681.stm technology it is testing.
More impressive still, it now seems the Government is promising “home access for all”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3320967.stm – ‘every home in the UK should have a connection to online services through a digital network by 2008 – whether through a personal computer, digital television, mobile phone or other device’.
Of course this is not as marvelous a promise as it seems since it is not a commitment to provision of the full Internet – only nebulously-defined ‘online services’ – almost certainly limited at the margins to email and basic government services. It also says nothing about likely user costs or incentives for use (without which the theoretical capacity to connect will likely languish unused in the third of UK households who don’t already have Internet access).
I fear I have somewhat misrepresented Ian’s position on “‘bonsai’ (128Kbps) broadband” It’s not that he thinks it is going to disappoint everyone – speed, phone line blocking and always-on remain the main drivers to broadband adoption according to Jupiter. But he believes that, ‘once consumers switch to such a ‘bonsai broadband’ product they will then become disillusioned that they can’t do the activities that they will have been led to believe possible on broadband (even though these may not have been their main motivations they may be ‘nice to haves’ and which they expected to have).’
This is a very fair point. In an attempt to make broadband sexy, broadband providers promise things like “Movies and TV on demand”:http://www.bt.com/broadband/ which they just can’t deliver. But I would contend it isn’t just the ‘bonsai broadband’ companies that can’t offer this – you can’t get streaming TV or movies via most other broadband providers either – “HomeChoice”:http://www.homechoice.co.uk/ is the obvious UK exception. 512Kbps or even 1Mbps isn’t fast enough for adequate streaming video across the Internet (except for Flash animation or short films where the small size and occaisional jerkiness aren’t so much of a problem). Even if the speed were good enough, there just isn’t a wide range of on-demand high quality video available online yet (see my “Broadband Content category”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_broadband_content.html for more on this point).
So if people do want VOD, the broadband available to consumers today generally won’t give it to them, so those people would be disappointed with any broadband, not just ‘bonsai broadband’. I contend, however that a customer that has always-on Internet without blocking their phone line (two out of three of Ian’s key broadband drivers) will likely be happy and that someone like that would be almost as happy with ‘bonsai broadband’ as they would be with today’s commercial broadband.
The next step forward will happen when/if 2-4Mbps broadband to the home becomes cheap enough for the consumer and broadband providers strike VOD deals and a large BBC “Creative Archive” comes online.
An old colleague of mine, “Ian Fogg”:http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/fogg/ (a Jupiter analyst), commented in an “earlier posting”:http://blog.org/archives/000896.html that he didn’t think ‘cheap broadband’ at 150kbps would would ‘really offer the full broadband experience that customers expect’. The reasons he gave were interesting, and reveal I think a kind of ‘supplier led’ thinking that is holding back broadband takeup.
* ‘150kbs is not sufficient for good quality [streamed] mp3 music’
How many people want to listen to streamed music? How many subscribers have services like Real One managed to sign up? If you are at work in a sympathetic company you might use it instead of bringing a radio in to work, but if you are at home you already have a radio! People who really want broadband for music are (I’m guessing) relying on broadband to download tracks either legally or (more probably) illegally.
* ‘To build community around online games, it’s important to enable access to add-on levels, and enable players to host, or run, their own games’ – well, I could see there would be a problem if a broadband games player frequently found they were being asked to download a map from within a game and they then found the ‘game cycles to the next level and the player has missed playing’. But if you found that to be a problem as a player you could also just go off and download the necessary files from one of many fan sites. As for hosting, I have played many, many online games and I have only hosted one or two. As long as one of your friends has ‘proper’ broadband this is not a problem.
* ‘it’s still good value if you care about price and mainly email and web browsing’ [but]… it doesn’t exactly encourage third parties to deliver rich video/audio content and applications … and subscribers that expect broadband to enable a richer online experience will be disappointed.’
Aha! But we’re not talking here about what subscribers *should* want from their broadband in order to support a healthy industry – we’re talking about what they *actually want*. And all the evidence I have seen is that what subscribers value most from broadband is always on/instant on connection, better web browsing and no arguments about who is on the line. A smaller segment may value download of large files but if you no longer need to worry about the ‘clock ticking’ on your connection does it really matter if that game demo comes down in the background in four hours or two?
My personal view is that the only commercial service that would cause a substantial increase in the desire for ‘true broadband’ would be something like iTunes but for TV and movie content. (And yes I know you can already download movies but so far this is very much a minority sport because of bandwidth problems).
My guess about the best way to boost broadband takeup is to a) offer it at £15 a month with speed limits (but no publicised download caps) and b) offer free three month trials – I imagine enough of the people who get it would keep it that this would pay for the installation costs for the few who tried and rejected it.
Of course I may be wrong – I am basing this largely on my own experience, friends, gut instinct and (to a lesser extent) on the ‘iSociety’s broadband research’:http://www.theworkfoundation.com/pdf/broadband.pdf
If there is, however, evidence that the consumer wants what the broadband content industry wants them to want then please bring it on!
David Docherty may be self-serving in this Guardian article plugging “YooPublica”:http://www.yoomedia.com/Public_Sector.html his commercial public sector digital TV initiative, but that doesn’t mean his idea is wrong. He suggests that the people at the bottom of the ladder who will be the last to switch to digital TV should get Government-sponsored set top boxes that also deliver government services – essentially a return to the “business model” of Minitel, which became a widespread interactive service in France because it was subsidised by the government to replace the phone book (not that it did, but that’s another story).
Back in November I suggested that something like this would “be a good idea”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_egovernment.html#000540 and if I hadn’t been busy on other things I always meant to write something for a think tank suggesting it. Glad to see someone else out there had a similar idea and is trying to make it happen.
A new, more computerised television production system being tested at the BBC could help feed the organization’s promised “Creative Archive”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_online_media.html#000861 of publicly-downloadable BBC content. Among the new capabilities on offer:
New footage will be catalogued after it is shot, so different producers can access the same content simultaneously.
“In theory, all newly shot material will be digitised so it can be made available to all BBC programme makers. Think of the advantage: you don’t have to go to an editing suite with four hundred tapes,” Ms Romaine [the BBC’s director of production modernisation] explained.
Computer-based production can allow programmes to be enhanced with additional information (metadata) enabling archiving and content searches based on internet technology.
One might think this sort of thing would already be routine in a large, well-resourced organization like the BBC, but it’s hard to change complex production processes to keep up with the changes that technology makes possible. I hope this experiment proves successful, because it is not until new production techniques like this one become routine that the Creative Archive will really start to take off.
I “never thought it would happen”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_online_media.html#000861, but here’s a major media organization that is going to produce and promote its own peer to peer application. The BBC’s new media director Ashley Highfield just revealed plans to produce, “a fully flexible, platform-neutral, super EPG… that will allow TV content to be recorded TiVo-style.” I’m guessing that it won’t be designed to allow general p2p file sharing – only sharing of BBC content. It’s a little unclear at present whether we’re talking about a set-top box application or something for PCs or both. I hope more detail will emerge soon…
I’m even more delighted that the BBC is going to try to produce ‘ultra-local TV news’ accessable via iTV. I hope this move will not be led merely by the local radio stations but will also give a variety of local groups access to the media.
Thanks to “Techdirt”:http://techdirt.com/articles/20030918/068232.shtml for the link
There seems to be a gulf between what the BBC reported its head to have said and what a transcript of the speech revealed. There has been some excited discussion by Danny O’Brien and Alan Connor (and, inevitably, on Slashdot and kuro5hin) that seem based on what they would like this announcement to be rather than what it is.
Matt Jones (who works at the BBC) says the move is, “brave and disruptive – and will have to be executed as such, with no half-measures or compromises to vested interests.”
In fact, while BBC News’ summary suggests Dyke said the Creative Archive would contain “all the corporation’s programme archives”, the speech actually promised to allow “parts of our programmes, where we own the rights, to be available to anyone in the UK to download” (emphasis mine). Nothing there about all of the BBC’s archives. And the example he uses – kids downloading, “real moving pictures which would turn their project into an exciting multi-media presentation” make it sound like a collection of digital clip-art.
The BBC’s director general has announced “plans to give the public full access to all the corporation’s programme archives… everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet.”
Well, the announcement certainly sounds huge, but as Danny O’Brien reflects, “Sorting out the contractual issues with anything but completely internally produced content will be difficult ” – a huge understatement! And who will pay the cost to digitise and index all that content? Who will decide when enough has been digitised? Will it be seen as a waste of license fee payments to “super-serve” the broadband-using public? Will the BBC actually encourage the use of file sharing applications in order to reduce its bandwidth charges? The list of questions goes on and on…
But even if a fraction of what is possible is achieved, this is a great step forward and it will open a number of important debates.movies blonde free sexfree throat deep moviemovies pussy eating freefacial movies gay freeporn gay movies men freefree samples movie gaymovies free gay postporn movies free granny Map
After producing an excellent study on what people on low incomes want from the Internet (easy-to-read, relevant content) and what they get, the Children’s Partnership has produced a follow-up paper for the Community Technology Review called Closing the Content Gap: A Content Evaluation and Creation Starter Kit which brings together some useful resources and gives a brief overview of projects like Firstfind which are being trialled at NY public libraries – a virtual library that provides information to low-level readers and adults with limited English skills. (Also see starthere.org a UK charity trying to do a similar job but using kiosks).