Open Data more than Open Source Debates is What Matters Now

There’s a battle for openess going on these days, but it’s not the same as the old open source debate. The ability/openess to modify software is just not that important to most people. Statistically speaking, almost nobody modifies their software (though the few that do can sometimes create enormous value for everyone else – that much is still true).

What I worry about is the battle for open connectivity. The media and telecoms landscape is shifting and the connection providers are the new gatekeepers.

to quote Warren Buffet recently:

“Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed. “

And just considering the internet, you could say the same for the telephone, radio, tv and the cell phone.

*All* of these media are just abstractions of bits traveling on a line.

Given a good enough general-purpose internet data connection, there’s really *no* reason your local cable co should be offering you TV channels or your local telco phone services — rather than the cableco or telco of timbuktu. — or any startup that pops up next week that does just a slightly/hugely better job of it. *cough* skype *cough* joost or Asterix the (heh) open-software telephone switch.

No reason, except an accidental happenstance of history. Oh and the fact that they gave you some hardware like a handset or cablebox with a few simple buttons and a remote control to make your life easier. Oh, well, and the fact that the local cable/tel-co invested -at great fixed expense- built out and maintain a last-mile connection right to your door. They even reinvest upgrade this network (from time to time). And these things matter*.

The debate of the future is how do we encourage investment in connections and bandwidth to the last mile — without selling out to those same providers, the permission to lock us in to the proprietary media services for which we needed the connection in the first place.

It’s the lack of competition and the co-ownership of the physical connection and the services upon it are a problem (not to mention ownership of legacy/cash-cow voice and cable businesses). There needs to be balance between encouraging both investment and access to data in canada.

But the marketplace in this country hasn’t found it yet.

Case in point: Rogers Inc. a major carrier in Canada just started rolling out a highspeed HSDPA wireless network (cool!). With their new “Vision Plan” you get a fancy subsidized phone (nice) can do amazing things like access any number of Rogers Video Services (or one of 50 Rogers-selected YouTube clips), or Rogers Music Services or Rogers Email Services, in fact they’ve built out a whole new little internet. And there’s no charge when browsing the Rogers Internet to purchase any Rogers games, media or service. As for the rest of the Internet, posted rates still as high as 414/min**, but they do generously offer 10MB of completely free Open Data access in the basic plan.

At (the advertised) HSDPA speeds, that’s in the range of 1 min/month. (very bad)

have fun with that.

*(Other metaservices Account servicing, support and billing are neither here nor there – it’s probably been done out of India already — thanks of course to cheap wholesale VOIP data rates.)

**Theoretical HSDPA speeds up to 1.8 Mbs
1.8Mbs = 230.4 KB/s
at $0.03/ KB This is $30 / Megabyte = $6.91 / second or $414/minute (how can this be possible?). On the open internet, better just use that data connection for *very* small WAP pages. For rich media, there’s no way you can use this connection for anything but Rogers Rich Media content.

Warning the product and rate descriptions on the Rogers site are a mess, and specially for the new products. And the pages don’t display properly in Firefox. sigh.

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  • http://www.RohanJayasekera.com/blog Rohan Jayasekera

    I intend to profit from the situation by selling head-mounted satellite dishes. They won’t work inside, but that’s when you use WiFi. And outside they keep you dry when it’s raining.

  • http://www.RohanJayasekera.com/blog Rohan Jayasekera

    I intend to profit from the situation by selling head-mounted satellite dishes. They won’t work inside, but that’s when you use WiFi. And outside they keep you dry when it’s raining.

  • http://www.hogtownconsulting.com/wordpress/ Patrick Dinnen

    I think there’s huge potential for innovation in Canada, if only we could get fat, cheap, two-way pipes to more homes/businesses/mobile devices. I don’t see Bell/Rogers offering that anytime soon though. At last year’s iSummit (aka ICE) I heard reps from both companies using describing Walled Gardens as the way of the future, that would have been bad in 1997 but in 2006 it seemed criminal.

    As you point out, there’s a huge reason for RogersBellCo not to give us these pipes, because they really enjoy the profit margins on selling us video and voice using last century’s technology. RogersBellCo don’t want to give TimbuktuTVCorp or BangaloreVoiceCo the opportunity to compete against them that would come with providing Canadians access to ubiquitous, cheap data.

    Seems like competition, real competition, for Bell and Rogers in the last mile connectivity market is needed. I’m not a free-market-fixes-all believer, but it seems obvious that in this case a competitor who isn’t profiting hugely from the status quo is what’s needed. Where that competitor comes from I don’t know. A spectrum policy question, perhaps?

    Perhaps Toronto Hydro could get into fibre to the home business as a local kick start. They don’t seem to be doing so great at WiFi, but I believe they know fibre and that I would pay for.

  • http://www.hogtownconsulting.com/wordpress/ Patrick Dinnen

    I think there’s huge potential for innovation in Canada, if only we could get fat, cheap, two-way pipes to more homes/businesses/mobile devices. I don’t see Bell/Rogers offering that anytime soon though. At last year’s iSummit (aka ICE) I heard reps from both companies using describing Walled Gardens as the way of the future, that would have been bad in 1997 but in 2006 it seemed criminal.

    As you point out, there’s a huge reason for RogersBellCo not to give us these pipes, because they really enjoy the profit margins on selling us video and voice using last century’s technology. RogersBellCo don’t want to give TimbuktuTVCorp or BangaloreVoiceCo the opportunity to compete against them that would come with providing Canadians access to ubiquitous, cheap data.

    Seems like competition, real competition, for Bell and Rogers in the last mile connectivity market is needed. I’m not a free-market-fixes-all believer, but it seems obvious that in this case a competitor who isn’t profiting hugely from the status quo is what’s needed. Where that competitor comes from I don’t know. A spectrum policy question, perhaps?

    Perhaps Toronto Hydro could get into fibre to the home business as a local kick start. They don’t seem to be doing so great at WiFi, but I believe they know fibre and that I would pay for.

  • http://www.RohanJayasekera.com/blog Rohan Jayasekera

    On the subject of last-mile I recommend reading A Business Strategy to avoid the two tier Internet by Bill St. Arnaud, Senior Director Advanced Networks, CANARIE. He covers an alternative where the last mile is owned by the customer and ends at a “neighbourhood colo” where it’s connected to a carrier of the customer’s choosing (there will be more choice because such carriers are not faced with building the last mile).

    That document is a PowerPoint presentation, but if you Google “bill st. arnaud” “avoid the two tier” the first match will be the document and you can choose “View as HTML”.

  • http://www.RohanJayasekera.com/blog Rohan Jayasekera

    On the subject of last-mile I recommend reading A Business Strategy to avoid the two tier Internet by Bill St. Arnaud, Senior Director Advanced Networks, CANARIE. He covers an alternative where the last mile is owned by the customer and ends at a “neighbourhood colo” where it’s connected to a carrier of the customer’s choosing (there will be more choice because such carriers are not faced with building the last mile).

    That document is a PowerPoint presentation, but if you Google “bill st. arnaud” “avoid the two tier” the first match will be the document and you can choose “View as HTML”.

  • http://remarkk.com/ Mark Kuznicki

    Another great post Tom. Patrick’s TO Hydro fibre concept and St. Arnaud’s customer-owned last mile proposal (thanks Rohan!) are interesting. The current path is troubling, as is the lack of imagination demonstrated in mainstream conversations. This post and others like it open the conversation further.

    I would encourage anybody interested in pursuing these issues and possible solutions to come to Open Cities on June 23/24 in Toronto. Propose a session to discuss open and/or local innovations to counter telco lockdown and re-intermediation attempts. I’m sure it will gather a lot of interest!

  • http://remarkk.com Mark Kuznicki

    Another great post Tom. Patrick’s TO Hydro fibre concept and St. Arnaud’s customer-owned last mile proposal (thanks Rohan!) are interesting. The current path is troubling, as is the lack of imagination demonstrated in mainstream conversations. This post and others like it open the conversation further.

    I would encourage anybody interested in pursuing these issues and possible solutions to come to Open Cities on June 23/24 in Toronto. Propose a session to discuss open and/or local innovations to counter telco lockdown and re-intermediation attempts. I’m sure it will gather a lot of interest!