Non-Ugly Smartwatches

Apple is releasing the Apple Watch on April 24, 2015, with a range of models that start at $349. This article from the day after its launch event last week notes that the watch, as an industry analyst quoted in the article states, is more like a “remote control for the iPhone.” He also states that it lacks that “killer app” that really is made for the smartwatch itself. The analyst further argues that, in terms of the entire “wearables” industry, “[i]t remains a solution looking for a problem.”

My reaction upon seeing it was, “why is it so ugly?” Really, the Apple Watch and a lot of smartwatches are as ugly and dorky looking as those “calculator watches” from the 80’s. Remember these? I admittedly have a bias against them. I got one for my birthday (11, I think) and thought I was one rocking kid until I got to school. The only way I could have killed my “playground-cred” anymore was if I had shown up to school wearing a pocket protector. I never wore the watch again. Read more

Like the Winter’s Snow, Pay TV Subscribers Continue to Slowly Recede

On the heels of a drop of 95,000 subscribers in 2013, the pay TV industry lost another 125,000 in 2014 according to data compiled by Leichtman Research Group (LRG).

But is this a thing? Perhaps not—given that LRG estimates the top pay TV providers serve in excess of 95 million customers, these losses may amount to no more than a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Telephone companies fared the best according to LRG, adding more than 1 million video subscribers in 2014. DBS providers added 20,000.   These gains were erased by the top cable companies, who lost a collective 1.2 million subscribers, or nearly 2.5% of their customer base. The biggest declines were posted by Cable ONE (down 19%), Mediacom (6%), Cablevision (5%), and Suddenlink (4%.) Comcast lost the fewest customers among the cable companies, down less than 1%. Read more

Apple Watch, Gila River, and Veblen Goods


Map at Gila River Telecommunications (GRTI) office. The Gila River Indian Community is embarking on a program to irrigate more than 146,000 acres. GRTI General Manager Derek White characterized broadband as “digital irrigation.”

At last month’s meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), a good friend of mine wondered aloud why his money should be spent to enable rural kids to game. He did not mean “to game” in the sense of, “to take unfair advantage” (as in, “gaming the system”) or even a strike at creating a new euphemism for deer hunting. Rather, his statement reflected his corporate worldview that someone was spending other people’s money so that rural youth can MMO or MMOG (multi-player on-line games). I get it – if I were on that side of the aisle, I might also (for the sake of rhetoric) ignore the fact that broadband supports inter-dependent applications that benefit both rural and urban areas simultaneously, such as agriculture or health care. And, in defense of my colleague, he “gets” the rural issue, so I do not begrudge the corporate mantra he articulated. Read more

Coffee Power

I love coffee. I enjoy five or so cups every day. I’m addicted, basically. I become very cranky and get a headache if I don’t get my morning coffee by 8:00 a.m.

Americans love their coffee as well. About 100 million Americans consume coffee every day, and the average American drinks about 2.1 cups per day. About $4 billion per year is spent importing coffee to the United States every year.

All that coffee produces a lot of grounds, although I was unable to find a reliable statistic for that. The article linked in the next paragraph notes that London produces about 200,000 pounds of coffee grounds per year. The point is that all of those grounds must be good for something. Read more

Netflix and ‘House of Cards’: The Numbers Don’t Lie

There’s a reason why the ice storm that struck the D.C. area this past weekend—Mother Nature’s latest insult in this seemingly interminable winter of 2015—didn’t sting quite as much as it might have: on Friday, Netflix made the entirety of the third season of its political thriller “House of Cards” available for viewing. Let the binge watching commence!

The series, which debuted in 2013, marked a significant gamble for Netflix. The company was in the process of morphing from a mail-based DVD distributor to a provider of streaming video content. Yet without a way to differentiate themselves from other online content providers, Netflix’s market share would never be truly secure. The key to the service’s ongoing viability would be coming up with something that nobody else could provide consumers. It rolled the dice with Frank Underwood and “House of Cards.” Read more

Google Announces Plans to Dip its Toes Deeper into Wireless

Google this week indicated its plans to enter the wireless service market, but hedged expectations that its foray would be limited, emphasizing that the company has no current plans to take powerhouse wireless service providers on in a head-to-head competition.

Google has wireless experience in its line of Nexus devices, which are billed as pure Android: they bear little, if any, manufacturer or carrier modification, including changes to the GUI. In return, Google manages design and development of the products, as well as marketing and post-purchase support.

In remarks at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, Google was coy about its plans, leading to speculation in trade press that it will aim to use both cell and WiFi. U.S. variants of the service are expected to rely upon existing networks, but overseas iterations may utilize Google use of balloons and drones. A launch is expected in several months. Read more

FCC Votes Net Neutrality Order

outside 2

A small camp braves brutal DC weather to support net neutrality. They and others inside the building showed a determined, if not defiant, face to the three inches of snow that fell on the Nation’s capital.


As would have been expected, the line awaiting admission to the FCC for the net neutrality vote featured many backpacks, multiple piercings, and hip haircuts. I moderated the impact with my plain paper journal, necktie, and Blackberry. Yes, a Blackberry.


Ah, the irony: the FCC creates “fast” and “slow” lanes . . .

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this morning voted an historic order on net neutrality. The FCC also voted a controversial order on federal preemption of local laws affecting the ability of municipal governments to provide broadband. Both items were approved on party lines, with Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly offering lengthy oral and written dissents. Unlike many other FCC matters, such as network power back-up requirements, CPNI rules, Part 64 allocations, and radio licensing, the open internet item attracted a packed house to the FCC. The main meeting room was standing room, only, and two overflow rooms down the hall were mostly filled. Security guards enforced strictly the capacity limits in the main room; my two attempts to slip in were thwarted. A small cadre of demonstrators supporting net neutrality set up shop in a vacant lot next door to the FCC; I am not sure whether the numbers seemed low because (a) the vote was a foregone conclusion, anyway, or (b) Washington was hobbled by about three inches of snow this morning. Inside, the crowd was at times raucous. Several times, applause spilled from both the main meeting room and the overflow room across the hall from the room in which I was sitting; I can only surmise that attendees gravitated somewhat mysteriously to the room in which like-minded people were sitting, since no one where I was sitting expressed any sort of animated reaction to what was occurring at the podium. It was, except for the absence of a red carpet fashion review, the agency’s Academy Awards.

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