The mediageek radioshow airs live this Thursday, August 20 at 9 PM Central time on WNUR 89.3 FM in Evanston-Chicago, IL and online at www.wnur.org. If you have questions or comments for Tim Hwang send them to me by email – paul(at)mediageek(dot)net – or by twitter. The syndicated podcast will be posted Sunday night, or you can listen to the show on any of the thirteen other affiliates listed at the radioshow site.
Posts tagged: internet
On this week’s show we led with Streetwise‘s financial troubles, listening to an excerpt of the Feb. 5 interview with Production and Marketing Director Ben Cook and Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Haney. Streetwise is receiving only about $60,000 of the typical $120,000 it gets in foundation support. We made note of a recent New York Times article that reported on other street newspapers doing comparatively well in this rotten economy.
Most of the rest of the show was dedicated to Time-Warner Cable announcement today (April 16) that it was going to hold off on “testing” bandwidth caps in Austin, San Antonio, Rochester, NY and Greensboro, NC. There’s lots of good reporting on the issue over at Ars Technica.
The podcast will be available this weekend.
Last Tuesday’s presidential inauguration was one of those moments where I think all business except for vital functions like transit and public safety stopped all over the country as people tuned in to watch Obama’s swearing in. Another thing that stopped for a lot of people was the internet. Arguably this was one of the biggest, if not the biggest live streaming video events in the history of the event. It was also one of biggest tests for streaming video over the internet, and the results were decidedly mixed.
I was at work on Tuesday, where one of my responsibilities is providing instructional media support. As soon as I got in that morning I started getting requests from people all over our building to set them up to watch the inauguration. Now, the building I work in is poured concrete monstrosity that acts like a Faraday cage, successfully blocking reception of most broadcast signals. On top of that, there’s no cable TV in building. So I advised anyone who asked about getting a TV that they should consider viewing a live stream. Then I went to go set up a live stream in a large conference room with a video projector. At that moment I realized that maybe the live stream wasn’t going to work out so well, as it took many different attempts on several different sites before we could get anything to stream for more than a few seconds. That was around 30 minutes before the inauguration was set to begin.
When I returned to my office all attempts to get a stream there–whether from CNN, Ustream or even the CBC–resulted in failure. A few minutes after the ceremony began I received an email from our central IT network department, advising us that our multi-gigabit campus network had ground to a halt due to people watching the inauguration online. Looking at Twitter and the CNN live Facebook stream I saw that we were not alone, as folks all over the internet were finding it hard to get a reliable stream.
In the end it looks like about 7 million people were able to get live streams of the inauguration, according to Dan Rayburn whose estimates are based on talking to actual content distribution networks. By any standard that’s an impressive simultaneous viewership for the internet. But it’s less impressive compared to broadcast television, where 37.8 million people watched the inauguration.
More illustrative of the difference is the number of people who were denied the ability to watch the inauguration due to capacity limits. That is, another 37 million people could have tuned in to the inauguration on broadcast, cable or satellite TV while still leaving capacity for 37 million more. Whereas on the internet 7 million appears to be the upper limit — past that nobody else could watch.
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Last month Matthew Lasar dug up info on this mysterious Julius Genachowski whose name starting circulating as a candidate for Obama’s FCC Chairman. Late Monday night the news broke that Genachowski is slated to be Obama’s nominee for the job. As Matthew noted in his Ars Technica article yesterday, the public interest community is responding positively to this news, primarily based upon Genachowski’s work on Obama’s “Technology and Innovation” plan. Given that candidate Obama was specific in his support for Network Neutrality, the hope inspired by Genchowski’s likely nomination appears to be more well founded than any other news on the Net Neutrality front in the last year.
However, much is still unknown about Genachowski’s views on media issues, like ownership concentration and indecency enforcement. He was an assistant to Clinton-appointed FCC Chairman Reed Hundt in the 1990s, and we might learn a little bit about Genachowski by looking at his former boss’ tenure at the Commission. With regard to media ownership, Hundt opposed lifting the nationwide radio ownership cap. The lifting of the cap–which brought on the Clear Channel era–happened with the passing of the Telecomm Act of 1996 by Congress, signed by President Clinton, and was not decided by the Hundt FCC. Hundt was also a proponent of children’s programming requirements, while also pushing for indecency fines against the likes of Howard Stern.
We’re sure to learn more about Genachowski’s views on a whole panoply of communication issues when he goes up for confirmation by the Senate. Here’s hoping that his apparently progressive outlook on Net Neutrality is combined with the willingness to put the brakes on the Bush FCC’s full-speed gallop on loosening media ownership limits. I must admit that ensuring a free and open internet, along with enacting policies to stimulate high-speed broadband build-out really should be the top priority for media and telecomm, above all.
With the lessons learned from the 1996 Telecomm Act and the ill-considered experiment of taking away common carrier status from internet (therefore creating the need for Net Neutrality) there exists a blueprint for creating a much more vibrant, diverse and free media ecology.
There is a vote scheduled for November 4 that is very easily overshadowed by another, somewhat more high-profile vote. While the nation’s voters decide whether Barack Obama or John McCain (or Cynthia McKinney or Bob Barr) will be the next president the FCC will be making an important decision about the future of internet access in the US.
At its Nov. 4 meeting the FCC is scheduled to decide on opening up to broadband wireless internet spectrum being vacated by the analog TV turn-off. Already FCC engineers have released a report endorsing this use of these so-called “white spaces.”
Predictably, the National Association of Broadcasters is going to great lengths to prevent this from happening, sensing a credible threat to their broadcast spectrum oligopoly and plans to turn TV and radio frequencies into tightly-controlled digital networks that are internet-like but mostly useful for helping you spend money. Like in 2000 when they cried “interference” over the creation of 100 watt low-power FM stations next to their 50,000 watt blowtorches, the NAB is challenging the FCC’s own engineers to claim that opening up white spaces for what is being called “wi-fi on steroids” will cause interference to television broadcasts. Nevermind that the FCC engineer’s are about as cautious and conservative a bunch you’ll ever find, backed up by independent analysts time and again.
So what do you do when you’re a industry lobbying group that doesn’t have the engineering facts on your side? Why, you lobby Congress with bogus arguments hoping they’ll intervene! The NAB also filed a request with the FCC to delay the vote, which doesn’t seem to be getting a warm reception at the Commission.
It’s no secret that the broadcast industry isn’t in great shape, largely due to decades of backwards-looking, anti-innovation business moves combined with repeated Congressional and FCC lobbying efforts to win regulatory protection in direct conflict with their free-market rhetoric. Now the NAB has no problem blocking the potential for greater nationwide broadband internet access that could be especially valuable to rural and other underserved areas. Just think, anywhere that can receive an over-the-air TV signal now could be receiving broadband internet wirelessly.
Groups like Free Press are running campaigns to help reach out to your congresscritters, though I’m betting they’re unlikely to pay much attention to the NAB’s bellyaching right now.
I’ll also be covering the issue on this week’s radioshow, with eagle-eyed FCC watcher Matthew Lasar joining to bring maximum analysis to the situation.