In the News

Published February 1, 2006

Internet Video Set for Take-Off

A plethora of programmers and manufacturers are ratcheting up the amount of video content on the Internet as well as the technology needed to play Web downloads on standard living room TVs.

At January’s Winter Consumer Electronic Show (CES), Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft showcased technology designed to make it easier to move video files from wired and wireless devices, be they PCs or cell phones, to TVs. In the meantime, CBS, ESPN, MTV, NBC Universal, and Starz are among those planning to augment the quality and quantity of downloadable video on the Internet to include recent and vintage movies and TV shows as well as sporting events, concerts, and other entertainment previously available only via cable or network television.

While downloaded videos are easy to watch on a PC, getting them to play on a conventional TV has been a challenge manufacturers have only recently begun to tackle. At CES, Cisco’s Linksys unit demonstrated a DVD player with a broadband connection for routing content off the Internet to TVs. It also plays video in Microsoft’s Windows Media format. Similarly, Akimbo Systems exhibited a set-top box that connects directly to the Internet and can play certain video downloads.

TXU Plans Big BPL Net

TXU Corp., the largest power company in Texas, said it will begin the largest rollout of broadband over power lines (BPL) service to date. Construction will start later this year, although the company did not disclose a timetable for completion.

TXU serves 2 million power customers in north Texas. As a broadband player, it will go up against AT&T, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. TXU will offer broadband service through a separate business unit.

If TXU and its broadband partner, Current Communications, hold true to their schedule, communities in north Texas could soon have as many as five broadband access networks competing for business, all on different platforms.

BPL’s biggest selling point may not be consumer services at all (although TXU definitely wants to go there). Much of BPL’s early business case is built around machine-to-machine communications, something usually overlooked when the discussion turns to broadband via fiber, coax, or copper. But BPL begins with the notion that just about all remotely managed equipment, from ATMs to soda machines, are plugged into the electric grid and therefore can transmit information as to their status without a second network.

As a BPL entrant, TXU benefits from Texas regulations that make it easier for power companies to set up independent business units that can make investments and retain profits. In other states, regulations often require that profits made from outside ventures, including telecom, be distributed to ratepayers, even if the initial investment came from other sources.

Pro-Muni Groups Slam San Francisco Wireless RFP

San Francisco TechConnect issued a request for proposal (RFP) for its municipal wireless system, drawing fire from the very groups who supported the program in the first place.

Unlike TechConnect’s original discussion document, which was very specific and set a very high bar in terms of coverage, scope, and service quality, the RFP that emerged in December is vague and sets few, if any, performance, speed, or security standards for wireless broadband, especially for the low-end “free” service that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has heralded as a “civil right.”

While the initial proposal drew attacks from free-market policy think tanks such as the Pacific Research Institute, the latest opposition has come from groups such as Media Alliance and the Community Technology Foundation of California who, while they favor municipal broadband, charge the city developed its RFP without sufficient public input and is simply trying to carve out a protected market for a commercial entrant such as Google.

Steven Titch ([email protected]) is senior fellow for information technology and telecom policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of IT&T News.