Monday, December 24, 2007

Is Facebook killing blogs? The conversation continues....

I really wasn't planning on posting much at all this week, and just got on the PC now for a quick scan of email and blog stuff before heading off to the same family get-togethers all of us are about to start doing.

I see that Jeff Pulver posted a nice follow up today to my post from Friday about this topic.

Sure glad to see the dialog continuing, which really is the point of blogs in the first place, right?

For anyone following this topic - and I really think I'm hitting on something here - it's clear from Jeff's experiences that the conversations are shifting from the blogs to the social media sites, namely Facebook. What's a blogger to do? Jeff has built up a fantastic network of engaged "friends" on FB, and by rights, he should be getting great conversations going there. What's really amazing is not how big his network is - and lots of avid FB'ers have large networks too - it's how quickly he's done it. Again, nothing unusual there in the FB world, but I'm sure Jeff would agree, he's built up a large following there much faster than it took on his blog.

I don't know about you, but I'm still not sure what to make of all this. I still stand by my position that FB could well be killing blogs, but of course it's not so simple. FB is just another forum for communicating, but it's much more social, whereas blogs are really all about the writing - and for some, the photos too. That's the primary reason we go to blogs - to read what the thought leaders are saying. That's not why we go to FB - we go there to be social, and if we happen to see something interesting to read, well, we'll do that too.

It really doesn't matter where the conversations are taking place - as long as they're happening - that's what I think is important. So, again, Jeff's posing a valid question about why the comments have fallen off at his blog, but at least people are still talking - so no harm, really.

All I can say from here is that as this trend continues - and why shouldn't it? - blogs are going to just look so 1.0. For me, it doesn't matter, since I don't anticipate becoming a rabid FB user. I'm pretty old school, and the blog is where my public writing goes, and I don't see anything changing that.

For Jeff and all the others who are big on FB, no doubt this has to be creating some dissonance, and I guess you just go with the flow. As Jeff says, some posts he duplicates on FB, but only a few - you just have to experiment and see what happens. Nothing wrong with that.

The ones I worry about are those who are trying to build businesses around blogging, where the name of the game is attracting sponsors and/or advertisers. Social networking sites will only continue to fragment readership, so if eyeball and page counts are materially important to you, I suspect you have a bigger problem on your hands than what Jeff has been sharing with us.

That's my piece on this for now, but I'm all ears if you want to keep this dialog going. I'd love it if you did, but in my case, you'll have to do it here, not on FB! :-)

Over and out for now. No idea when I'll be blogging next, hopefully before the year is out.

All the best for the holidays!

Technorati tags: , , ,

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is Facebook killing blogs?

Real interesting post from Jeff Pulver yesterday. Titled 'where have all the comments gone?', Jeff raises some troubling points about the impact that Facebook is having on where the best conversations are taking place. It's a valid lament for any high traffic blogger who regularly generates a healthy flow of reader comments - which I think is the true measure of what a blog is really worth.

This isn't a problem for me, as I don't have A-list traffic, so I don't get the volume of readers that usually yields the stream of comments that make blogs a much more interesting read. To some degree, this is by choice, as I don't take advertising or get into the SEO game, so as a matter of course, my blog will never show up on mainstream radar. However, I'm happy to have a small core following, and I get my share of reader input, both online and offline. Of course, Jeff doesn't take advertising either, but he's a globetrotting icon who attracts attention wherever he goes.

And that's the dilemma Jeff is sharing with us. The blog has been his soapbox for years, but since he's become enamored with Facebook this year, he'll be the first to tell you that's where his day starts now, and that's where he's spending his online/public time. So it's no surprise that that's where the conversations are happening now. His post touches on many facets of this issue, and as anyone who has taken the Facebook plunge knows, its pervasiveness has basically changed our behaviors. It's become the hotspot to meet, be seen and see who's doing what. It's a lot more fun, sexy and less work than a blog, and the expectations certainly aren't very high for what goes on there.

The blog is still a much better forum for articulating ideas, but sites like Facebook really are more engaging, and certainly have a great sense of immediacy. At any given time of the day, the chances of finding your posse are far great there than on your blog, so that's where the comments are going.

I can totally understand Jeff's issues, and others do too based on the comments he's received on this post. Interesting that a post that asks where have all the comments gone, is in fact, generating lots of comment for Jeff. That aside, it addresses some of the realities of trying to maintain an active, engaged presence in multiple places, whether real or virtual.

The big takeaway from all this is that FB is not really built for this type of dialog, and there's pretty good evidence from the threads running through Jeff's post that fixing this would be a good idea, making FB that much more powerful as a central meeting place. On the other hand, that may NOT be what FB has in mind as it might introduce elements that take away from what's already working so well. That's their problem to solve, and I have no doubt that the mashup community is coming up with all kinds of ideas/widgets/add-ons/whatevers.

I'm more of a casual FB user, so it's not keeping me up at night, but it sure will be interesting to watch if Jeff's dilemma is the catalyst for some potentially disruptive change with FB. The title of my post is more likely to keep me up at night, and I'm sure it holds true for any blogger who is living multiple online lives via FB, Myspace, Twitter, etc. If this is where people are really investing their online energies, it doesn't bode well for traditional blogs like mine.

Makes you wonder if blogs are going the way of print media and other 1.0 media. I sure hope not, and would like to think the world still needs forums like these for personal expression that runs longer than IM-style messaging. Much like the way LinkedIn is becoming more social media-friendly to stay relevant, Jeff's post is a wakeup call to say that blogs need to evolve too. Interesting times, no?

Technorati tags: , , ,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Busy, busy, busy - aren't we all?

Seems everyone is racing to get stuff done - and shop - before the week is out. Definitely not business as usual, and it's been tough on the blogging front. There are only so many hours in a day, and right now I've been in a quiet zone for fulfilling projects, and my focus has shifted to business development.

That's what pays the bills, and blogging only happens once this is under control. All I can say is that it's been a very productive 2 weeks, and my pipeline for repeat work and new clients is very strong going into 2008, so I'm going to look forward to some real time off over the next week or so.

I've got speaking gigs and conference bookings lined up through April, and invariably other things will come up as 2008 gets going. They always do, right? Also, the IP Convergence TV portal is really coming along - we just updated it this week, and the content quality keeps getting better and better. Will have some good news to report soon about some collaboration work we'll be doing around an upcoming conference.

With that said, I do have some blog posts in the works that I plan to get written over the next few days, so here's a peek at what's coming...

- Palm Treo 755p reviews. Max and I have had this smartphone on trial for just a short time. His review is almost done, and mine will be done shortly - look for these soon.

- Nokia N95 review. I've been using this phone for a while now - Max did his review a while ago. My review has been sketched out in a journal, and I'll type it up over the break as well.

- Year in review - photo highlights. Never done this before, but it recently dawned on me that I've been to a lot of neat places and events this year. I always take photos, and thought that would be a fun way to look back on the ground I've covered this year.

Technorati tags: , ,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

IP Convergence TV Updates Posted

Wearing my Community Advocate and Portal Editor hat for the IP Convergence TV portal, it's my duty - and pleasure - to let you know the latest update is running live now.

Not only is there new content, but the look and feel of the website has been updated. It's more user-friendly, but still a work in progress. I can tell you that traffic has been building nicely, and we're getting some great feedback from both vendors and carriers.

Two things in particular to draw to your attention....

1. My feature has been been converted from a podcast to a blog. So, my existing podcasts have been transcribed, and can be found in a new section called the Convergence Blog. My latest posting is an extended review of some recent research from Deloitte that I posted about here on my own blog a couple of weeks back.

The Convergence Blog is very early stage, though, and the look/feel will definitely be evolving - please bear with us. For those of you who were following my podcasts on the portal, I should add that all the posts on this blog can still be heard. Just like I do on this blog, the Convergence Blog posts are audio-enabled courtesy of Odiogo. I think this is a great application, and recommend it for any blogger.

2. In terms of new content, there's a new white paper from AudioCodes, 3 new video interviews conducted by Erik Larsson, and 3 new Guest Opinion pieces from some very good writers/industry players... Thomas Howe, Dean Bubley and Bob Emmerson.

I hope you read 'em all, and sign up at the site to get alerts on our updates. Got a lot in the pipeline already for the next update, so if you're following convergence technologies - IPTV, FMC, IPTV, IMS - you should find this a useful resource.

Technorati tags: , ,

Monday, December 17, 2007

Iotum- Let it snow, but let's talk about it....

Quick post - a twofer for Canadian cohort Alec Saunders and the team at Iotum.

First,Ottawa got buried with its worst snowstorm since anyone can remember - about 2 feet yesterday. A lot of Eastern Canada got hit - we got it pretty good here in Toronto, but Ottawa got way more. The US Northeast got socked last week, but that was a different storm. Well, there's no doubt now it's going to be a white XMas.

Anyhow, if you want a geek's take on the weather, Alec has a great post today. Oh, as I'm writing this post, Alec has just updated his blog with some photos - nice work.

I was in San Jose last week for Cisco's analyst event, and even though it was quite chilly there - and even an outdoor skating rink next to the hotel - I'll gladly head back there now compared to what we've got here. I don't ski, but it's not hard to see how the Alpine set is over the moon about all this snow - no thanks....

Second item - since I have your attention - today Iotum announced something really interesting and fun with their Facebook conferencing app. For those of you who plan to be online on New Year's Eve - and I'll bet that's a lot of you, Iotum has a great way to reach out and touch 1,000 of your closest friends. They've been building some nice traction with their voice conferencing application on Facebook, and are using this opportunity to add some festiveness to social networking. Alec's post tells you all about it, so if you want to have some social networking fun on New Year's, and do a virtual midnight countdown with a cast of thousands, you just gotta be there.

It's a great idea, and to help promote it, Iotum has even produced a demo video, which you can view off of Alec's post. Aside from all the fun people can have doing this, the promotion is a great test to demonstrate the scalability of Iotum's platform, and I think that's the real story. This is the kind of proof point that up and coming vendors like Iotum need to convince large operators that their application will work for them and that they can make money today using it. In the world of social networking, New Year's is about as social as it gets, so hats off to Iotum for connecting the dots and creating a great opportunity for themselves. Can't wait to hear how it turns out.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cisco C-Scape 2007 � Parting Thoughts

I mentioned in passing in my earlier post that compared to last year, Cisco has certainly come a long way in its focus on video and network-centric solutions. Lots of talk last year about unified communications and SMB � not so much now. Telepresence is front and center, which is not a bad thing. And why not? I don�t know how much traction Halo or Tandberg or Polycom are getting, but Cisco wasn�t shy telling you how many deployments they have in less than a year�s time. If the numbers are to be believed, it�s pretty hard not to conclude that Cisco has bet right with Telepresence.

There really are 2 major story lines related to TP. The first is telepresence itself and the second is how this fits into the broader constellation of video-based solutions that Cisco seems to be betting its future on. Many presentations and sessions ended with the reassuring messaging that Cisco is �uniquely positioned� to deliver video and bring customers into the Web 2.0 world. Well, if you say so, then it must be true. There was a lot of Kool Aid served at C-Scape, but on this count they just may be right. To the extent you believe that - it�s too early for me to tell - Cisco is poised to become a force in the video a lot faster than you might think.

So, first to TP � Telepresence. The big message there is that if you just think of this as high end videoconferencing, then you have very 1.0 view of things. Absolutely, that�s what it does, but from day 1 Cisco has not called this videoconferencing, and has staked out higher ground trying to get the world to see this as an entirely new category. The Cisco view is that this a tool for business transformation, that changes the way people communicate, and more importantly, the way we do business. They provided pretty good examples of this, particularly in health care, and we�re not just talking about cutting down on travel. It�s about enabling new processes and accelerating workflow. I�m just an indie, so I can�t really envisage this in my world, but can definitely see where this really can happen.

If you want to see the wow factor of where they�re coming from, check out this much-watched video off of YouTube. It runs about 4 minutes, and was mentioned often at the event, and gives the term virtual reality new meaning. In this session, John Chambers is speaking live in Bangalore, and Marthin De Beer appears hologram-like on the same stage as if he was right there with him. This isn�t from a Hollywood special effects magician � it can happen at your next board meeting. An interesting example they provided was how an Arab Emirates country wants to use this as a way to virtually bring Western celebrities into their local events. Well, that makes sense � a lot of rich and famous people will not � or cannot � travel to this part of the world, so TP is the next best thing. I get that.

Also, if you want to see a more extensive video from which this demo was done, there's an official version running on Cisco's website. It runs about 11 minutes, and has John Chambers telling the TP story in more detail.

I should also add that as good as the TP story is, there was no mention made of some interesting news from late last week. Cisco announced they�ll be opening up TP to interoperate with other standards-based videoconferencing systems. I�m all for that, and it positions Telepresence as more of a 2.0 solution, making it even more interesting. Not sure why they didn�t play this angle up at C-Scape.

Lots more to talk about here, but you get the idea. Anyhow, the second idea is the bigger picture of video. This is Dan Scheinman�s world, and Cisco demonstrated on a few levels how committed they are to video. They see it as the killer app of the Internet, and they just might be right. And of course, to do video right, you must have the right network, and who knows networks better than Cisco, right? Networks are not my forte, so I really can�t challenge on this front. What I do know is that 2008 will see the launch of EOS � their Entertainment Operating System � which puts all the pieces to together, including search capabilities that are a big part of their secret sauce.

I agree with Dan�s premise that there�s simply too much content out there, and people generally don�t know what they�re looking for most of the time, and when they do, they really don�t know how to find it. So, a big part of what will make video a big deal is having search tools that don�t just help you find things, but that help you discover things. It�s a subtle difference, but a big one in my books, and again, I get that. If EOS lives up to its promise, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo will have some catching up to do.

Missed opportunities? One comes to mind for me. One of the quiet stories that I think is cool is their focus on digital signage. I see lots of interesting applications, and once Cisco Field is built you can bet it will be a living test lab and showcase for this. Anyhow, given the size of the main hall for the big presentations, there were large video screens flanking the stage so everyone could see what was going on. At the back and the edges of center stage, however, were several smaller display screens draped in semi-random fashion to give the feeling of a more intimate, home-theater type setting. I�d guess they were each approximately the size of a flat screen TV you might have in your home.

Ok � I get it � video is the big message, so sure, the more video displays the better. Unfortunately, for the most part, these display screens only had static images - usually the conference logo. Ugh - not very exciting and, to me, a missed opportunity. Not only could those screens have been used to enhance the overall video message with streaming media, but even more so, they could have been a great vehicle to demonstrate their digital signage technology. It�s pretty neat stuff, and like TP, you really need to see it to get the idea.

Of course, you could argue that having too many screens showing streaming video/media � using both big and small screens - would be too distracting from what�s going on center stage. That may be true, but hey, we�re all smart, media savvy analysts. I�d say a little Hollywood razzle dazzle � even at just a few choice break points throughout the day � would have made a great impression to show off not just the power of both video and digital signage, but also to make a statement about how much of media company Cisco is becoming.

I can�t help but mention at this point that doing something like that � and it couldn�t have been that hard to do � would have been far more effective than the morally ambiguous Telepresence commercial they ran to close out the morning session. If you saw this, you�d know what I mean, and after a morning full of interesting and engaging presentations, it�s hard to see what they were thinking here. On a brain-dead level, the commercial was very sentimental and touchy-feely about an everyday American family keeping in touch with their son who is in some far-away place. That�s an easy message to send about the power of Telepresence. But it sure was hard to tell whether their son � who was holed up in some form of a tented base camp in the middle of nowhere � was doing noble Peace Corps type of work � or was in the military doing other types of work.

Maybe it�s just me, but I found this commercial confusing and a bit suspicious rather than uplifting and singing the praises of TP. I didn�t hear anyone else reading it this way, so I guess it�s just me. So either it was just way too subtle for everyone, or I spend too much time reading meaning into things where there�s nothing really there. The latter is probably closer to the truth, although I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about this stuff as a Psychology undergrad enroute to my Marketing MBA. Or maybe I should switch fields and go into advertising....

Much more to talk about, but that�s about all that will make it to my blog. To sum up, instead of hearing talk about VoIP, IP telephony, unified communications, SMB, the language this time around was about collaboration, Web 2.0, blogging, social networks, innovation, content, community, personalization and the experience. If it was just words like these, you�d be right to be sceptical. But they sure seem to be walking the talk, and even though their Web 2.0 Kool Aid was pretty strong - if you were there you�d know what I�m referring to � I do share their vision and can see how the pieces fit.

John Chambers loves to talk about never losing a battle where they�ve had a head start and how they�ve had a good track record capitalizing on market transitions. It�s also pretty clear that innovation is a major mantra at Cisco, and they�re living it as an organization, signs of which became increasingly apparent the more time I spent talking with them during the event.

Well, video sure is one of these �market transitions�, and they seem to be right on target for what�s coming in 2008. In short, his vision is to transform Cisco from a plumbing play to a platform play, and if they do, their branding message �welcome to the human network� will ring true, and give them the one thing they don�t have � cachet in the consumer market. Apple has it, Microsoft has it, and Cisco�s dying to have it. If I�m a betting man, I say they�ll get it in 2008.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cisco C-Scape 2007 - Reprise

The C-Scape event finished up this afternoon, and overall, it was a really well run event. Today was mostly break-out sessions and 1 on 1 interviews, all of which were very good. Time well spent for sure.

It's been a full day and with an early flight home tomorrow, I'm not up for much analysis right now. The next best thing is to share with you coverage of the event on Cisco's corporate blog, which also includes a number of video clips of a few presentations.

I'll add my parting thoughts in a separate post once I'm back. Stay tuned....

Technorati tags: ,

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cisco C-Scape 2007 - Day 1

Just wanted to post some quick photo highlights from Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference, which kicked off today in San Jose. I attended last year, and it sure is interesting to see how far along the video/media road Cisco has come in a year's time. Not a lot of talk about routers and switches, hardly any talk about IP telephony, and ZERO mention of VoIP. If I'm tracking video, media, social networking, Web 2.0, it's pretty hard not to bump up against Cisco now. Pretty impressive the way they've put a lot of the pieces together, and I have no doubt that in 2008 they will be one of the big stories in this space.

Got lots more to say, but not now - hopefully tomorrow....




John Chambers opened things with a roundtable Telepresence session, with live feeds from 4 different cities - 3 on stage as you see here, plus a Cisco contingent based in New York. This was neat to watch, as John Chambers led a round robin discussion with 3 speakers about Telepresence, especially in terms of how these technologies can improve and accelerate productivity. I couldn't help but note, though that the interaction was a bit static, as John went from one speaker to another in serial fashion. So, there wasn't much to look at while the other speakers just sat there silently. Would have been more effective if there was some real time interactive discussion among everyone - maybe next time. Was also interesting with this being a session-within-a-session, as we got to watch John Chambers conduct his session, mostly with his back to the audience. Pretty tricky stuff to stage, as he needs to engage all of us out there watching him face these screens to engage the speakers, since they were talking him, not us.


Charlie Giancarlo, hosting the Cisco Development Council, with John Chambers looking on in front of me. Tough audience to please, but they did a great job.


Dan Scheinman, Media Solutions Group - definitely the media guru at Cisco, and I really enjoyed his vision for where all this is going. Key takeaway - Me plus We = Community. Totally.


Cisco is big on Second Life - here's the Cisco Sandbox...


Sneak preview - I'm going to be on video during tomorrow's 8am session. I was the first analyst to do submit a question on videotape for tomorrow's CIO Fireside Chat session. Let's see how they answer it tomorrow - I'll let you know next post.


Technorati tags: ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't copy my posts verbatim - please...

Plagiarism is never a good thing, and it�s pretty hard to detect for blogs. Can�t say I�m a magnet for the New York Tmes, but it sure looks like I�ve been found in academic circles. This is a very low level incidence of plagiarism, and I�m only posting about this to show how the Internet can work in very unsuspecting ways.

There are no commercial interests at stake, and this was probably done by a grad student, so there�s no point in naming people here. It�s nice to be noticed, for sure, but the writer in me says it�s a matter of principle when your stuff is lifted verbatim and not credited. To be fair, I've certainly had people approach me for permission to cite my writing and even my pictures. That�s fine � as long I know what they�re doing with it, I have no objection.

Am not quite sure how all this unfolded, but basically, the Professor was doing a Google search on some entries for this student's paper, and.... a blog post of mine turns up. Very strange. From what I can tell, the quote was not used in a telecom/tech context, so it's a bit mysterious to me. Regardless, I just think it's neat that the prof used Google as a sort of fact-checker - I suspect this is becoming standard practice in university these days with so much stuff out there for sale online - and then found me, of all people. Even more interesting is what connection this student was trying to make between my quote and their paper. I still don't know, and it makes me wonder if students are so enamored with the paint-by-numbers process of 'writing' papers, that they can't even tell any more which stuff is actually theirs.

I'm still trying to get to the bottom of this, but it also appears that the student didn't cite me because it was from a blog, and didn't need to be cited. Aha - now we're getting to the crux of the matter. I think that a lot of people think that if it's on the Net, it's free for the taking - public domain. Hmmm. Very muddy water there for sure. Of course, if it was paid content, they wouldn't think twice about not citing it. But then, students can't afford to access paid content, so let's not go there. No, they will graze from free sources, but don't you think there's a disconnect here if university students have so little regard for blog posts. I guess they just see it as personal opinions that are freely shared - which is largely true for blogs.

Many questions to consider here - how do you decide if a blog is real writing or just chatter, who really should decide this, how do you acknowledge usage, etc. Definitely a brave new world, especially for anyone who values the creative process and the power of the written word for conveying ideas.

Well, I'm not about to tackle this now. I'm in San Jose this week at Cisco's analyst conference, and I've been flying all day, and am quite tired. Anyone out there who wants to take a stab at this is more than welcome, and I'll continue this dialog when the storyline becomes clearer.

Technorati tags: ,

Friday, December 7, 2007

High Road Communications Holiday Party

I don't get out like I used to, but I had a great time last night at High Road's holiday party here in Toronto. High Road is one of the top PR agencies for tech/telecom in Canada, and it looks like they're going to have a great 2008. You can be sure I'll be staying close to them and working with them on a few fronts.

For my U.S. readers, I want to clarify this is a different shop than High Road Communications, another PR agency with the exact same name, but based in Indianapolis. Looks like they got the full length URL first, so to find the Canadian agency, you have to use the URL. Small world.....

Some photos, courtesy of my Nokia N95.....

Avaya's Amir Hameed with Claire Rankin


Team Avaya, with Aastra's Yves Laliberte, left


Stefan Dubowski, showing that men can look good in argyle....


Sarah Spence with Morris Shawn of Roadpost


Technorati tags: ,

Avaya Canada's Analyst Day

Been one of my busiest weeks of the year, and I just haven't been around much to do any blogging. On Wednesday, I attended Avaya Canada's analyst day here in Toronto. Well, technically Markham, but still, not far from home for a change.

Pretty informative day, with lots of roadmap updates and what to expect in 2008. I wasn't able to attend Avaya's global analyst conference last month, but I did go last year.

All I can say is that last year, Avaya laid out a pretty strong vision about "intelligent communications", and how powerful IP communications can be when you put it all together. Avaya Canada's event this week was on a more modest scale, but looking at things a year later, what really struck me was how right they've gotten the messaging and positioning for what these technologies can do at a human level. I think they're doing a great job of translating the technical aspects of their solutions into the mantra of better living through technology, both at home and at work. This builds great brand equity for Avaya, creating the "Intel inside" association any technology vendor would love to have.

Not being a technical analyst, I operate under the assumption that these things work and that the technology is more or less ready to do what it's supposed to do. I know that's not 100% true, but it's far enough along that vendors like Avaya can deliver pretty high functioning solutions that go well beyond bringing voice and data together under one tent.

The other comment I'll make is that during the afternoon session, we were under "heavy NDA" for some bigger picture presentations that set the stage for where Avaya is going in 2008 and beyond. Can't say more than that other than I think this gave us a better understanding as to why Avaya went private. Glad I was there!

Avaya Canada's CEO, Mario Belanger and a room full of smart people!



Roberta Fox demo'ing the One-X Quick Edition, one of Avaya's SMB solutions


You know you're special when you get a blue phone. Just like iPods and iPhones have cool skins, why not your desk phone?


Technorati tags: ,

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Verizon Forbearance - Not This Time!

Been on the road since 8:30 this morning, and am way too tired to get into a long discussion. This news has been out for a while but this has been my first chance to respond, and I wanted to close the loop on my post from yesterday.

So... Verizon lost - that's about all I'm going to say. Newfound pal Ike Elliott was kind enough to leave a comment on yesterday's post with the news, so he gets the big hat tip. Have a look at his post for the details.

Am sure the legal teams at all the CLECs who have been stating their cases so well are breathing big sighs of relief today. It's got to feel good. Competition lives another day!

Technorati tags: , , ,

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Verizon Forbearance - More Bad News for Telecom Competition?

Tomorrow - Dec. 5 - the FCC will announce its decision on Verizon's forbearance petition. I'm not a regulatory expert, but have learned enough that this could have serious implications for the state of telecom competition in the U.S.

Blog posts from Om Malik and Alec Saunders from earlier this week tell the story quite well, and those are good reads to get the basic storyline. If you're a supporter of free markets and open competition, you may want to explore things a bit further. A good starting point is Comptel's Free to Compete website, which states their position pretty clearly.

To really get into detail, you can review the report prepared by QSI Consulting that attempts to quantify the economic impact if Verizon got all of its petitions upheld. They make the case that this would lead to a $2.4 billion increase in subscriber costs across the 6 markets covered by Verizon's petitions. This translates to an annual increase of $114 per household.

There are several competitive operators who stand to lose from this petition, and you can view their submissions as well - Covad and XO, Earthlink,and PAETEC.

All told, there's a lot at stake here, and Verizon has been getting its way lately, most recently with their patent litigation against Vonage. If all or part of their petitions are granted tomorrow, life simply gets harder for any CLEC or over-the-top operator who relies on Verizon's last mile copper to access subscribers. If they really want to drive out competition, they'll simply raise wholesale prices to the point where others cannot make money and will need to find other routes to market.

I've always contended that whoever owns the last mile wins, but in today's market, it's not realistic to expect non-facilities based operators to build their own networks. That may have been the spirit of the 1996 deregulation, but it's a different world now. Actually, this may just drive competitors to jump on the WiFi bandwagon and create an end-to-end alternative that bypasses Verizon altogether. Wouldn't that be interesting?

Anyhow, it's the precedent that would be of most concern. If Verizon is even partially successful, it will embolden the other incumbents to follow suit. It's my understanding that Qwest wants to follow suit, but lacks Verizon's clout. And the other major - AT&T - has to sit on the sidelines until 2010, which was a provision for getting the SBC merger done late last year. That's only a few years away, and you can be sure they'll be doing as much groundwork as possible now should Verizon come out on top tomorrow.

It all adds up to an environment that is rapidly reversing the course of telecom deregulation. With the pureplay VoIP providers pretty much out of the way now, the telcos can now move on to the CLECs, and this petition could lay the foundation for raising the barriers to entry so high that only the incumbents can stay in the game.

If this is the world you want to see, then you'll be rooting for Verizon and a friendly FCC tomorrow. I'm in the other camp, however, and feel that this is another example of anti-competitive behavior that is ultimately not serving the best interests of consumers. For anyone else who feels the same, please have a look at these links, and pass them along.

Technorati tags: , , ,