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.