Monday, September 19, 2005

Fall VON - Day 1

So far, so good here in Boston. This year's show is at the new convention center, which is quite big, and not near the hotels. But that's ok - we all adjust. Lots of walking, so it's a good way to work off the good eats.

Today is mostly pre-conference workshops, and I've been in the sessions about Open Source. Lots of interesting perspectives from industry leaders like JBoss, Asterisk, My SQL, Pingtel and SIP Foundry. Open Source is certainly gaining momentum, and Norway's Telio illustrated some real life examples as to how OS is finding its way into carrier networks, both lowering costs and speeding up time to market for new services. Hopefully, the next time around for an OS summit, we'll have more examples and proof points like this.

The lunch time keynote was with New Hampshire Senator John Sununu, who was introduced as one of the best friends the IP industry has.

Unlike previous VONs, there is no FCC presence this year, so Senator Sununu's comments were well received. Clearly, in the wake of Katrina, a lot of attention has been focused on the shortcomings of the US communications infrastructure in times of disaster. His basic message was that US telecom policy should be driven by the principal of "do no harm", and in light of Katrina, the implication is that we're not being well served given the technologies available to us today.

He also expressed strong disappointment in the exclusion of the IP community in the Washington post-mortems around Katrina, a message that was well received by all in the room. Jeff Pulver and others have blogged quite passionately about this in recent days, and I'll leave this thread to those who are hands-on with the policymakers.

Jeff Citron just finished his keynote -"The Future is Calling". He has always been a great draw at VON, and of course, there was a lot of anticipation to hear his message now that Skype has set the bar for the dealmakers. Not surprisingly, he focused on much safer ground - the "Broadband Bill of Rights". That was his "announcement" - so, nothing radical to report here.

He did have a soft sell message that will play well with the investment community - the kind of things you'd want to hear from a company building up a global brand. He basically outlined 4 key points to their strategy, but nothing earth-shaking here:

1. Improve people's lives - flexible communication tools to make our lives better and easier - well, we all want that, right!

2. Erase geographic boundaries - VoIP is ideal for this - nothing new there.

3. Develop a culture of innovation - this sounds more like Jeff Pulver than Jeff Citron, but you gotta have this for longevity - the secret sauce has to come from somewhere.

4. Strong commitment to value - features/quality/low price - no argument there - but can you make money doing this? Not so sure, but maybe that's not the end game right now.

The second topic was his "announcement" - the Broadband Bill of Rights. It sounds am awful lot like Net Freedoms, but again, these are the messages that look good coming from an industry leader.

- Right to connect any device to the network - there was a time when the phone company was the only place you could buy/rent a phone - good point, for those of us who remember those days

- Right transmit/receive data - and the right to have their network provider block packets - BUT only with explicit approval

- Right to access anything lawful on the Internet - NO BLOCKING!

- Right to privacy

- Right to get quality broadband - at least 1 megabit - ALL the time.

It's all good - can't complain, and all we can hope is that more people - and the right people - will listen when it's coming from Vonage.

Jeff also highlighted how well Vonage performed in New Orleans, and how it was held up as an example as to why regulators should formulate policies that support IP communications. Couldn't agree more.

And now, to the inevitable question about eBay/Skype - "no comment". He simply said Skype is not a replacement service, which reiterates what he's said in the past that this is basically a calling card business. I certainly agree with the first part. There's a lot of confusion in the press where Skype and Vonage are often lumped together. So, I'm with Jeff in making the distinction between a subscription-based broadband voice service versus and an ad hoc model, which is basically driven by the prepaid model.

Time to visit the show floor - will continue tomorrow.

NOTE - the Blogger's Roundtable is tomorrow, and here's the latest news. Om Malik has bowed out dued to illness, and I'll be taking his spot. So I'll be up there with the uberbloggers in less than 24 hours, and am quite excited to be included in this elite group. Wish me luck!

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