21 January 2005
This process is happening right now in the TV-satellite broadcast industry, where the "small dish" carriers (Direct TV type stuff) have been combining, and the service providers for programming have been getting frozen out by a gradual loss of access to programming. Oh, by the way the same gang that owns the small dish distribution, also controls the programming channels, and of its face have decided that no one else will get access except for them. That may be bad enough, but the small dish systems, with highly compressed digital signals deliver an inferior product when it gets to your TV. If any of you have small dish systems - your picture quality is very noticeably poorer that that obtainable with the same programming delivered via analog "big-dish" satellite systems, AND you get to pay nearly twice as much for comparable programming than a big-dish viewer does in the more competitive market place of big-dish programming marketers. A lot of this is thanks to policies of Powell's FCC.
Another push from Powell has been for something called BPL - Broadband over Power Lines. This is a method of piggy-backing a broadband computer data stream over your AC electric power lines. Unfortunately, this results in the broadcast of a broadband digital noise "hash" all over the shortwave radio spectrum. In spite of the dominance of satellite and microwave (read cell phones, etc) communications, the short-wave spectrum is irreplaceable to many military and civilian government users, to say nothing of international shortwave broadcasting, and HAM radio, which has repeatedly proven itself a valuable resource in virtually all major disasters world-wide. In spite of these vigorously expressed concerns, under Powell's leadership the FCC has actively promoted the implementation of field testing of BPL. Whenever it has been done, it has been proven to destroy the use of the spectrum for any other users. All this from an UNLICENSED system, which is interfering with LICENSED spectrum users.
To paraphrase O'Reilly - "Who's looking out for who?
P.S. As a rural resident, broadband access IS a problem. Therer are local wireless providers in our area, but my location is in a hill "shadow, and we can't use it. We're too far from town for DSL - the only solution is direct satellite for broadband access, but I certainly don't want to see BPL blanket the airwaves with digital noise to the detriment of any other use of radio spectrum.
Will Powell's departure make any difference on any of this? Who knows at this point. It's hard to be real optimistic at this point, but I hope I'm wrong on this.