Repeat After Me: Itís About Service, Not Infrastructure

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts today became the first cable company CEO to address the annual Winter Consumer Electronics Show, emphasizing the role public broadband networking has in the delivery of sophisticated consumer information and entertainment platforms that leverage technology and content from multiple sources. Broadband networks, as I’ve written often, are part of a much larger value chain for service. Each year it gets more and more difficult to categorize what the cable and telephone companies as merely infrastructure companies. Yet there continues to be a naive belief by city governments that they can easily duplicate cable TV service. According to the CES press release, here’s the bar Comcast is going to set for competitors this year:

“Roberts announced the end of an era for set-top boxes, and proclaimed a new generation for two-way platforms with the introduction of an OpenCable platform called tru2way. Panasonic president Toshihiro Sakamoto joined Roberts on stage to announce their co-creation of AnyPlay, the first portable DVR and DVD combination with tru2way capability. Roberts also announced that more than 1,000 HD choices will be available for the portable device in 2008. “With the help of American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, Roberts debuted Fancast, a launch pad for the convergence of the PC and television, creating a personalized television experience. The individualized site links quickly and easily to content on the television, Internet, DVDs or in theaters. With the use of wideband instead of broadband, Fancast is able to download a two-plus hour HD movie in four minutes. It is the first site where consumers can find, watch and manage all their video content in one place.”

Yet the cities like Provo, Utah, and Lafayette, La., forge on, spending millions on their own broadband and cable TV systems, insisting to local taxpayers that simply because they are using fiber-to-the-home, they will easily match or succeed the quality and quantity of commercial broadband service. It doesn’t work that way. Service providers are competing on the strength of the service packages. So expect more head-scratching and puzzlement from the muni crowd as 2008 turns into another bum year for municipal broadband.