I posted last week that I purchased an HTC Evo. While I was customizing my device I decided to play with its FM radio. Which I thought was kind of cool at first and it got me thinking how FM radio is a key concept in the net neutrality controversy. I’ll explain this over further but it’s important to understand how I got there.
I was tuning my Evo to my favourite radio station. Since it was moving on toward the evening a familiar DJ was talking in between commercials and music. At first I was thinking how cool this is, ‘FM on my cell phone?’ Yea sure it sounds cool but really, who listens to the radio beside the people without cellular broadband?
The radio in my car has been broken for years. I use my phone to play mp3s over a Bluetooth stereo to FM transmitter. How behind the times was that now? My wife has been using Pandora in a similar fashion for over a year. Who wouldn’t if given the choice? It’s much harder to drive out of a national carrier’s data range than your local FM radio stations and you can skip or pause the stream. If you miss informational audio try podcasts on the road.
Technology is moving forward all the time. No carrier is going to want to maintain older technology forever. It isn’t practical. Remember when the analogue networks were disbanded? This will happen one day to the more modern first and second generation digital networks and it isn’t far away. 3G is already obsolescing faced with 4G is invading.
4G is important and in America 4G doesn’t really mean 4G, at least not ye. 4G in America is the stepping stone from 3G to 4G and are the carriers going to have a problem when 4G really comes out and they’ve used up the name and the hype. There are two big rules for qualifying as 4G. One you must be able to transmit 100mbps to mobile devices and by mobile I mean devices that are actually moving not devices that can be moved like a cell phone. In addition 4G must also provide 1000mbps to stationary devices. The WiMax (Sprint) and LTE (Verizon) networks can’t provide the speed necessary to qualify. It is possible to get 100mbps out of these technologies, but neither speed qualifies as you won’t get those speeds in motion. Lastly a 4G network is 100% ip based. That is… the voice and data are sent digitally over the network using ip connectivity. The same method you use to go to Google or Amazon’s web site.
The rabbit hole went deeper for me. I mean, not all radio stations are going lay down and die off when everyone finally makes the 3G leap. Instead of broadcasting over the air waves they’ll switch mediums and broadcast another way. One example of this kind of switch is satellite radio, but the expense is paid for by the listener because advertising doesn’t compensate for the total operating costs. Bar of entry is pretty bad too because you have to buy a separate
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satellite radio. Another example is Pandora Internet Radio and that’s free. Pandora uses the Internet as its medium for broadcasting instead of the air as FM or satellite does. The bar of entry is pretty small. Most devices that can do Pandora serve several other functions. This is the beauty of ip connectivity, this is the goal of 4G, and that is the embodiment of the future.
I know that some might be thinking, ‘but isn’t cellular broadcasting the same as FM in that the air is a free medium?’ How is it different? Even though the air is the medium of the cellular
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connection between cell phones and cell towers the connection is the property of the respected carrier and the signaling is proprietary between carriers. With FM everyone is allowed to receive signal but with cellular you can’t become a member unless you are a subscriber. You won’t be able to receive or transmit voice or data across the cellular if you’re device isn’t compatible or registered on the cellular network.
Why does this apply to net neutrality? It occurred to me that Netflix and Comcast are butting heads because common customers between the two companies are using Netflix. This increases the bandwidth requirements for Comcast. They believe that Netflix should pay tariffs for this extra usage. How different is Netflix to Pandora? Not very.
For most subscribers they don’t even consider the actual method their data has to go to get from their PlayStation to Netflix or their Motorola DroidX to Pandora and back.
Comcast and the defendants of prioritizing or outright blocking other content providers believe there tariffs are justified and that the supplier of the content should be punished. The reverse then must be true; either they are right and the supplier should then punish the demander or they are right and they should seek the demander of the content.
In a perfect world no one should have to increase costs to access a portion of the Internet. The reality is that everyone wants a piece of the pie and
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Comcast wants to get a portion of the money Netflix makes off Comcast
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I was just reading a Time Warner Cable advertisement and I saw the price that cable companies charge their clients per view. At those prices it is no wonder Netflix is so popular. The real problem I see here is that either Comcast charges to little for their Internet service or they charge to much for their per view movie content.
In the end, regardless of the verdict of net neutrality, this kind of thought will only lead to the customer paying more. Perhaps if we use more unlimited Internet we should pay more for it. The answer is an problematic but I personally don’t believe in tariffs. In the future the Internet will hopefully be completely free.
Also I wrote this entire post from my HTC Evo. Caio!
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