Comcast Channel Shifts — Looking for info.

I’m getting email about Comcast migrating MSNBC and CNN out of its expanded tier to a higher priced tier while keeping Fox News on expanded tier in a number of markets. If this is actually going on, I’m mightily curious.

Such shifts do not happen casually. They are generally the product of fairly intense negotiations among cable operators and programmers. They also require advance notice to viewers. This makes me extremely reluctant to impute a political motive here. If NBC and Time Warner (the owners of MSNBC and CNN respectively) were being screwed against their will over a political agenda, I would have expected to hear it in DC. What mainstream coverage there is of this suggests it is part of Comcast’s general digital upgrade. So we should expect to see all remaining channels migrated off to the higher priced tier eventually. While that will constitute a significant rate increase, it will put everyone back on equal footing. Besides, as the DC Circuit instructed us all last month, cable operators have no market power and cannot influence the programming market, whatever your personal experience to the contrary may be.

So if anyone has more info on this and would like to either comment below or talk to me, I’d love to hear about it.

I suppose I should add that unless Comcast failed to give proper notice to subscribers before changing their channel line up, their is nothing the FCC can do about it, so don’t bother complaining.

Stay tuned . . .

Internet killed the newspaper star, Internet killed the newspaper star (or not)

A lot of talk lately about the future of journimalism, especially of the newspaper variety. In The Nation, John Nichols and Robert McChesney say that newspapers & journalism are vital to democracy, so newsgathering organizations should be supported by taxpayers. Their article doesn’t strike me as totally idiotic; only somewhat Quixotic. David Sirota, in SFGate says that newspapers’ wounds are self-inflicted, because they insisted on giving us stupid crap instead of journalism–and television & internet are just inherently better media for delivering stupid crap. As captured & discussed at Crooks & Liars, CNN had an interesting discussion (also featuring Sirota) about newspapers in decline. If newspaper-style reporting is to continue (and we’re fucked if it isn’t, they say), local reporting has to be the core. Over on First Draft, Athenae has been posting some good stuff about how greedy scumbags, not the internet, killed journalism. (Athenae has lots of cool postings on this topic.)

Meanwhile supercool meta-ironic emerging-intelligence socio-observer & collective wisdom trendspotter Cory Doctorow Clay Shirky (seriously, who can tell those two guys apart?) sayz, like dig it, cats, this Internet thing is so far out that none of you squares can begin to grok its significance, but the newspaper is dead, man, so be cool & get hep to what’s happenin’, OK?

A Plug For My Friends At WIMN

The awe-inspiring thing about the progressive reform movement is how many small organizations of dedicated people are making a major difference in the word.

Below, I reproduce a recent end of year letter from WIMN — Women In Media And News. These women run a small and incredibly effective shop. If you want to support organizations that are making a difference, these are good people who can really use the money.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Cred on “The Street”

Yesterday Lockheed announced that it had bought Croquet simulations learning company 3D Solve. (3D Solve’s founding CTO is David Smith, who is Chief System Architect for the Croquet Consortium, and CTO of Qwaq. Consortium point-man Julian Lombardi is an advisor.) Being Lockheed, the news was carried by financial folks like CNN and Merrill Lynch, but I’m most excited by the release carried by Gamasutra and Serious Games Source, which is all about Croquet.

This comes on the heels this week of Cisco blogs about Qwaq.

I’m old enough to know that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. But it certainly ain’t bad news, and it gives a lot of credibility to the Croquet platform. I hope that Croquet folks around the world are able to make good use of this news in setting up their own projects.

This week I had posted links to some cool new Croquet project movies, but I missed this somewhat cold one from 3D Solve.

Intel adapting to OLPC, and graphics accleration on mobiles

My read of this article, and the linked presentations for investors, is that Intel’s fairly near-term strategy:

  • Includes major specific responses to the OLPC. (E.g., a focus on lower cost and marketing in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.) OLPC has changed the game.
  • Suggests that graphics acceleration must be included in Intel’s products for mobile computing. (E.g., noting that “the most important applications…including Second Life” won’t run on a mobile phone, and that the “uncrompromised” “full Internet” has to run on mobiles without delay from when it is available on desktops.)

Nothing to be surprised at, but this is the first time I’ve seen this officially from Intel.

VDC — Video VOIP

I confess I hadn’t heard of VDC: Virtual Video Cable until they filed a program access complaint. Of course, since the vast majority of people probably hadn’t heard about that either (or even know what a “program access complaint” is), I imagine I remain in the distinct minority.

VDC bills itself as a purely broadband-based cable-like service. I compare it to “video VOIP” (or voice-over-IP for the five readers unfamiliar with the acronym). In theory, a service like VDC could provide real competition to cable by letting you get an actual cable service (as opposed to video clips like YouTube or random episodes from iTunes or from some streaming site) — just like VOIP allows a company like Vonage or Sunrocket to offer voice if you have a broadband connection so you can discontinue phone service, saving a bundle (assuming your broadband provider does not make you buy a bundled service or interere with your VOIP packets).

So it is unsurprising that when a possible competitor like VDC emerges, cable uses its market power to try to squash it like a bug. In this case, cable companies have resurected one of the old reliable tricks from their early days: deny the would-be competitor needed programming. Here, Time Warner has refused to enter into negotiations to make CNN available to VDC. (We can expect that if this doesn’t do the trick, cable cos will move to the new fangled tricks — mess with the packets.)

But VDC has a few weapons in its arsenal. It has invoked a provision of the 1992 Cable Act called the “program access rule” that Congress passed to force cable operators to make programming available to would-be competitors like Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers. VDC has only two problems:

1) The complaint is being handled by the FCC’s usual cable enforcement staff which, as I have observed previously, does not exactly move on “internet time.”

2) The program access rules stop working (“sunset”) this October. So even if staff resolve the complaint in something approaching reasonable time, it may not do much good.

So is video VOIP dead before it even starts? Not necessarily. For a full explanation of what’s going on and how you (yes, you) can help make video VOIP a reality, see below . . . .

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Vote today, please

At the end of a five-week long, and quite exhausting, business/family matters trip, I found myself watching TV in my hotel room in San Mateo, California, last Wednesday evening. Now then, sports is about the only thing I watch on TV, but during a commercial break in a really boring college football game, I stumbled upon Anderson Cooper interviewing Michael J. Fox on CNN. And I was transfixed. What struck me about Fox, apart from his obvious intelligence, passion, and wit (and of course the dyskinesia–he was swaying all over the place), was the absence of anger and vituperation. This was, you may recall, only about a week after Fox had been ridiculed by Rush Limbaugh for having Parkinson’s Disease, and interrogated by Katie Couric as to whether he was “overdoing it” for political effect. Cooper tried and failed to get a rise out of Fox; the man was clearly too focused on getting his message out to waste any time on animosity or indignation. Everything he said was positive and forward looking, even as he refuted bogus arguments of his opponents and detractors. I can’t remember Fox’s exact words, but I do remember him talking about the significance of “our franchise”, that is, our right to vote. A more stirring evocation of what we’re supposed to be all about you could hardly find. As he spoke about what our nation could and should be, I sat there thinking, “This is what a courageous patriot looks like.” I’ll tell you, I had tears coming down my face, I did. And I resolved to see if I could learn a thing or two from him about turning down the vitueration. (Which is why you have not seen me post anything yet on Ted Haggard. . .I’m thinking. . .)

Now, on the other side of the world one of my favorite writers has come back online — heartening to her fans, who feared the worst. I speak of Riverbend, of the blog Baghdad Burning. Now, when Riverbend writes, there is no check on her vituperation, nor should there be. Anyway, here’s her latest entry. Read to the last paragraph, and then, if you’re elegible to vote & have not yet done so, please go exercise that franchise. That’s what I’m going to do. Hope to see you at the polls.

They're after our precious BBQ!

In a sinister move hastening the day that we all have govenment chips implanted in our heads to monitor ThoughtCrimes,

CNN is reporting
about a chip being implanted in pork butts.

OK, so the chip was (allegedy) accidentally lost in some meat packing plant. But I don’t buy this for one moment. I encourage you all (well, OK, those of you who aren’t wisely keeping kosher) to use preventative measures normally reserved for your own person to secure your precious BBQ supply from the sinister secret government!

(link shamlessly stolen from boing boing)