Telecom headlines

Gary Handman (
Tue, 28 Sep 1999 09:04:45 -0700 (PDT)

Issue: Media & Society
Keller asks, "Has dwelling in the information age...really altered our lives
as much as it is rumored to have done?" Sure it has changed *how* we do
things, but has it changed how we feel about our lives? Using 19th century
British novels as a backdrop, Keller compares lives of old to ours now. In
fiction, at least, communication is convenient to the plot -- a
misdirected letter, garbled message, etc. Keller concludes: "Once we look
past the silly, pop-up thrills of plot, a longer view suggests that maybe,
just maybe, speed is rather unimportant, all told. Life happens faster these
days. But even at those souped-up velocities, does it happen any
differently? We still fall in love, fall out of love, cheat on loved ones,
covet someone else's loved one, live our lives in the same clumsy,
passionate, misbegotten ways that we always have. Armed with cell phones,
e-mail and satellite paging systems, we still stumble around in the dark,
making fools of ourselves."
[SOURCE: Chicago Tribune (Sec 5, p.3), AUTHOR: Julia Keller]

Issue: Broadband
Recently, the promise of cable companies offering a host of communication
services, including Internet and telephone connections, via upgraded TV
cables into the home has created a great deal of excitement. A handful of
phone companies, on the other hand, are equally excited about the prospect
of using digital subscriber line (DSL) technology, which operates over
existing copper
wires, to offer customers dozens of high-quality TV channels, movies on
demand and Internet access via TV sets. DSL makes possible the ability to
store dozens of shows and to pause and rewind live broadcasts. U S West, the
largest U.S. phone company to offer TV over DSL commercially, is using an
ultra-fast version of digital subscriber lines to bring 170 channels of TV,
high-speed Internet access and other services to suburban Phoenix. The video
costs $32/month, while the Internet link is $35 to $50/month. The up-front
cost of upgrading networks with more fiber-optic lines has prevented U S
West from debuting the service in any new cities this year. "In the U.S.,
cable's basically won," said analyst Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research
said. "And the most serious challenges to it are satellite and cable
overbuilders...(who are) not building phone networks, they're building other
cable networks to compete with the cable operators."
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Jon Healey]

Issue: EdTech
In his latest production endeavor, George Lucas has taken a break from
light sabers and space ships to focus on classrooms and computers. _Learn
&live_ , a documentary airing on public television this fall, highlights
the practices of five schools innovatively using technology as a learning
tool. "Why not mobilize the best technology, architecture, glitz and
imagination and bring kids along?" asks Harvard University's Howard Gardner,
who provides commentary for the film. "That's the catalytic power in Lucas'
vision." The film was co-produced by the George Lucas Foundation -- a
non-profit that promotes innovative teaching techniques -- and DC-based
multi-media company State of the Art. "There's been enough education
bashing," said Milton Chen, the foundation's executive director. "We want
to highlight the success stories in schools and help others learn to teach
in the digital age."
[SOURCE: USA Today (10D), AUTHOR: Olivia Barker]

Issue: Intellectual Property
Congress has much on its table with respect to copyright and the Internet.
The issue extends far beyond the scientific community, affecting millions of
stockbrokers, librarians, real estate agents and publishers -- anyone who
makes a living collecting information. Today, such compilations or databases
go largely unprotected by copyright laws that safeguard the interests of the
authors and publishers of creative works. The database owners fear they will
lose profits if outsiders can freely copy their information as it costs them
tremendous amounts of money to collect and enter such data. On the other
hand, companies such as Yahoo! fear they could be run into the ground if
they can't easily trade works. The debate is essentially between people who
collect raw data and people who distribute it. Real estate agents, for
example, gather information about which apartments are available. Their
concern is that an online publisher could see their listings in the window
of an agency, copy them, and put them up on a Web site -- all perfectly
legal under current federal law. Lexis keeps vast collections of court
decisions. They might be faced with a competing on-line publisher who
decides to use Lexis data to launch a Website of all court decisions from
Massachusetts -- also perfectly legal under copyright law. "Why would anyone
spend $2 million to create a database if it's not going to be protected?''
said David Mirchin, of SilverPlatter Information, a database publisher in
Norton, Massachusetts. Companies such as AT&T and universities such as
Brandeis in Massachusetts want legislation that would not restrict people
from copying databases unless they plan to use the information in a directly
competitive way. Behind the push for stricter copyright regulations are Reed
Elsevier, owner of Lexis-Nexis and of Cahners Publishing of Newton,
Massachusetts, the American Medical Association and the National Association
of Realtors.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury, AUTHOR: Boston Globe]


Issue: Digital Television
Cablevision Systems and Sony have joined in an alliance to develop a
digital system that will allow viewers to watch movies, play video games
and send e-mail, all from a box on top of their TV sets. Cablevision, the
sixth largest cable operator in the United States, will pay around $1
billion to Sony for the set-top boxes, which are expected to be launched in
the New York area in about a year. "The interactive TV top box puts the
customer in charge of the service," said Cablevision President and CEO Jim
Dolan. "The potential new service is limitless, and since the customer is
in control of the technology, it could also lower monthly bills.'' The
system would also be ready to convert to new high definition television
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Steve James (Reuters)]

Issue: Digital TV/Cable
Free Pizza. WebTV Plus, Domino's Pizza and B3TV recently ran interactive
commercials offering free pizza to 9,000 San Francisco homes equipped with
the WebTV Plus system. Nearly 140 homes took the partners up on their
offer, raising hopes that interactive television systems will be the next
venue for online goods. Advertisers were further encouraged by the response
of the homes that got the free pizza, 96% said they would be inclined to
buy pizza through their television, and 98% said they would buy other
products. By 2004, Forrester Research predicts that interactive television
systems, such as WebTV Plus and Wink, will provide advertisers with the
potential to reach 24 million households generating an estimated $3.8
billion in interactive commerce. The market potential of the technology is
spurring advertisers such as General Motors, AT&T and Procter & Gamble to
step up their development of interactive commercials. Major broadcasters
and cable stations, such as E! and HBO plan to enhance some of their
existing programs with interactive elements for the fall. While the
technology is ready to move forward, some artistic and legal concerns for
interactive media are yet to be addressed.
[SOURCE: USA Today, (7D) AUTHOR: Bruce Haring]

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000

"Everything wants to become television" (James Ulmer -- Teletheory)