Starting June 11, 2002
Pew Internet study of broadband usage, Small Players comments, Weinberger at WordsWorth, Speedy and full recovery Dave!, Public policy meetings
Pew Internet study of broadband usage [link]
You may have heard references in the news to the latest report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Once again, this group is giving us some real data to help us understand what real people do with the Internet, not imaginary people dreamed up by companies who only think of "consumers" and "viewers". It is definitely worth reading this report in detail, and, of course, it's available on the Web.
This report is titled "The Broadband Difference: How online Americans' behavior changes with high-speed Internet connections at home". Some of the main points: High-speed, always-on Internet connections at home ("broadband") are growing quite well and have adoption rates on par with other technologies like PCs and CD players. The longer you've used the Internet, the more likely you will get broadband, and early adopters' usage patterns are good predictors of later adopters'. Broadband users create more content for others and "...the ability to upload material and make it available to a wide audience is something that is attractive to a significant segment of the broadband using community." "For many broadband users, images and data on the Internet are not just things to viewed passively, but things that these users download, recombine, manipulate, and share with others." "The broadband connection to the home is associated with users' deeper connections to friends and family." Broadband turns the Internet from a toy to a "tool" -- "...the 'go to tool' for a variety of functions". People likened the Internet to a library and "...no other metaphor such as 'meeting place' or 'shopping mall' comes close to that symbol of what the Internet is." "As frequent searchers for information using their always-on connection, broadband users seek out the greatest range of sources to satisfy their thirst for information." The two most common things broadband users say they've spent the most time doing online is "looking up information" and "e-mailing".
The report is filled with lots of this stuff and the numbers behind the assertions. It's well worth reading the whole thing.
Many of us have long believed this view of the online world, where the myriad of small players matter, and the "walled garden" vision of many media companies don't. It's nice to have real data to back it up.
Small Players comments [link]
I received a variety of comments related to my Small Players Matter essay. I've added links ones by Ernest Miller, Phil Wolff, Jakob Nielsen, and Mark Bernstein at the end of the essay.
Weinberger at WordsWorth [link]
Dave Weinberger was interviewed by Scott Kirsner and signed copies of his new book as WordsWorth Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last week. I bought a copy to send to someone. Promotional events work, I guess. Here's a picture of the event:
Speedy and full recovery Dave! [link]
John Robb reports that Dave Winer is in the hospital for the next few days. For those who don't know of Dave, over the last several years he has been a major influence on many of us in the weblog and general Internet community. He has been a person who spends his life communicating to others through the Internet on a constant basis. When his personal weblog, Scripting News, stopped being updated every few hours, with just a cryptic last post of "It's going to be a light day here on Scripting News. Lots of non-Internet stuff going on." there was withdrawal (you get used to constant updates since you often find out important stuff there first), then wonder, then worry all over the Internet world. John's post at least lets us know that he should be OK, but needs "healing thoughts" (which appear to be working, according to John's latest post as I write this). So...I want to add my prayers to the many others for a full and speedy recovery, both in body and in spirit.
Dave seems to like this picture (he uses it on his web site), so I'll include a big copy showing a big smile. So Dave, your healthy, happy self is now radiating from screens around the world. It's my little cyberspace way to bring good thoughts your direction.
Dave Winer in March 2000 at PC Forum
Public policy meetings [link]
Yesterday I participated on panels on two public policy meetings in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. The first was the MassBroadBand conference put on by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (their homepage has links to more about the conference) and the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council (of which I am a trustee).
Press reports mainly concentrated on coverage (how many people could and did have broadband), and price. One (the Boston Herald) even quoted me (probably mistaking John Landry, who did say that, for me) as saying "I did not hear a story as to why we need broadband. There are no killer apps for broadband." (That doesn't correctly represent my feeling. I think we need widely available high-speed IP connectivity and that there will be killer apps if we don't structure things wrong.) Not very upbeat.
In actuality, the conference was quite upbeat. Paul R. Gudonis, Chairman and CEO, Genuity stated that Voice over IP was a reality and that major companies were switching to use it. I asked what that meant to companies whose revenues based on expensive non-IP telephony could go to near zero. Good question for the next panel I was told. When I asked for a show of hands of who had broadband connections, most hands went up. When I ask who would give them up, all hands went down. As Joseph Zukowski, V.P. Public Affairs, Verizon of N.E. joked something like on the next panel, (as I recall): "Broadband is a drug. We just have to get you to try it." (They are running low-priced specials on DSL. This report is being posted over one I signed up for last month and that has worked out well so far just as they promise.) Mark Reilly, New England Regional V.P. AT&T Broadband admitted that their high-speed Internet service was profitable. They were looking to lower the price for less service and raise it for more. (Their base service price recently was raised.) He would not address their savings from Moore's Law driven cost-savings and improvements in capabilities. The press picked up on the lowering price/service to supposedly get more demand, but ignored the monopoly-like control of prices.
I made references to the "option" and "user-funding" ideas raised by David Reed at the Connectivity conference, as well as the "Small Players Matter" concepts. I must remember that such economic-theory policy arguments, while great for policy-wonks like many at this conference, are completely ignored by the press which only seems to cover simple win-lose reports. Something behind debates that may have huge implications can be easily lost to temporary reactions. ("Red Sox Game Postponed! A great disappointment, which is a result of a large crack in the road caused by what experts call a 'huge earthquake' yesterday...")
My view of moderator Pam Reeve with Paul Gudonis and John Landry on my panel, a traditional shot with Congressman Markey and me
Congressman Ed Markey gave a speech touting the success in rollouts of broadband, etc., and his forward thinking role. The part of his talk that got us to applaud spontaneously (and has not been picked up by the press much) was about the "Spectrum Commons". As part of House Bill 4641, he has filed legislation for more unregulated spectrum like the 2.4GHz band which has led to 802.11b, et al. (Actually, if you read the bill on Thomas, you'll find it buried in a bill mainly about how to use proceeds of spectrum auctions.) Here, from a copy of his prepared remarks I was able to obtain afterwards from an aide, is some of what he said (I posted the full text on a sub-page of satn.org): "...High tech manufacturers, entrepreneurs and the proverbial 'kid in the garage' could make more robust use of wireless communications if sufficient spectrum were available in unlicensed form for the general public...Such a public set-aside could foster the formation of an open platform for innovation, entrepreneurial activity, and public communications. It would also militate against unhealthy consolidation of spectrum in the hands of too few providers. An unlicensed area of the airwaves will permit the public, through the use of 'smart' radio technology and better receiver equipment, to harness the airwaves for countless applications if the government is willing to give back to the public a portion of its own airwaves in such an unlicensed format...[U]tilization of publicly available airwaves can help connect people and businesses in cost-effective and spectrum efficient ways. I believe the 'Spectrum Commons' will also help to propel economic growth and innovation by opening up the airwaves to new marketplace entry by individuals and entities unaffiliated with established network providers."
My view of half of the Mass eComm Roundtable, panelists Assistant Secretary Mehlman (with me) as well as author Simson Garfinkel and Chief Counsel for Technology Nuala O'Connor Kelly
To give unlicensed spectrum a bipartisan flavor: At the mention of 802.11b, et al, at the Mass eComm Technology / e-Business Roundtable yesterday afternoon, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Technology Policy Bruce Mehlman expressed his personal support for unlicensed spectrum. (A transcript or recording of the meeting is promised for the Mass eComm web site sometime soon. They had a court reporter transcribing it whispering into a mouthpiece throughout.) Bruce has an 802.11b system at home and loves it. While he is not the one responsible for spectrum (Assistant Secretary Nancy Victory does that, he tells me, but I'm still awaiting comments from her office) here we have at least one Republican in power who appears to understand how innovation can be fostered. Hopefully both parties will fight to show who can create more opportunity and benefit for society through unlicensed spectrum.
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