Saturday, November 6, 2010

One Is All You Need

It seems every day there is another news story describing shock at the decreasing number of cable subscribers.  Like yesterday’s story with the headline, “Cable Subscribers Fleeing, But No One Knows Where.”  What??  With all due respect to the Associated Press, this is about as hard to figure out as a bad murder mystery.  The butler did it, now move on.  

Here is the truth.  We have reached the point where we don’t need multiple wires to carry data in and out of our homes.  Our phone line, cable television and high speed Internet are all doing the same job.  They are three different wires carrying packets of digital data to and from the same place.  We are simply waking up to the fact that there is no longer a need to pay for all three.  

It is like carrying three different smartphones for email, texting and phone calls.  It would be redundant and unnecessary.  If someone did that, we would think they were being wasteful, and even rather stupid.  In a very short time, we’ll feel the same way about anyone who pays for cable television and a phone line and Internet access. 

A connection to the data grid doesn’t know whether it is carrying audio, video, pictures, text or something else.  And it doesn’t care if it’s uploading or downloading.  It is all just packets of digital information going back and forth.  And the speed and capacity of a typical connection is now large enough that it can carry as many packets as you can send, as fast as you can send them.  You can have a house full of people communicating through email, texts and phone calls while watching 4 different programs on 4 different televisions, and one wire can carry it all.

None of this is shocking to anyone who is looking forward instead of backward.  I could write a very long history book about the technical, legal and economic reasons that we all have three different wires carrying data in and out of our homes.  But it doesn’t matter.  Those reasons are no longer relevant.  History is not news.  

News stories about the decreasing numbers of cable subscribers are like news stories about the decreasing number of CD sales.  You might as well be writing about the decreasing number of horses on the roads since the invention of the automobile.  It’s all the same story – things change.  That’s happening every day.  The real news is not about where we were, but about where we’re going.
So why are people giving up their cable subscriptions?  Simple answer: because it costs over $100 a month and they don’t need it.  A lot of people are giving up their land line telephone too.  They don’t need that either – they can use Skype or their cell phone, or Skype on their cell phone.  You only need one wire, and in fact, some day you might not even need that.  Before you know it, we will probably all be connected to the cloud 24-7 through a 4G connection (which will probably be a 7G or 8G connection by then). 

There, mystery solved.  Let's not spend any more time pondering the obvious.  Instead, let's think about the opportunities that are available in a world where everyone is connected to everything all the time.   

1 comment:

Armen said...

I've been a "cord cutter" since 2006. You're absolutely right, I've been saving $100 a month on cable TV and watching the content I want instead on YouTube, Hulu, Veoh, and Netflix. I have my laptop hooked up to a massive flatscreen monitor and its essentially the same as watching TV, except I pick exactly what and when I watch.

Here's a great article about Cord Cutters and Convergence.