Access Is Not Content
A. Michael Noll
October 7, 2016
© 2016 AMN
Twenty years ago in 1994, Bell Atlantic almost purchased John Malone’s company TCI—but sane minds ultimately prevailed. However, in 2000, Time Warner merged with AOL, and nine years later broke up. And then there were the ill-advised attempts of the telephone companies to enter Hollywood new media. There are lessons here: these kinds of mergers do not work.
Today’s mantra of new media seems to be “repeat the mistakes of the past.” And thus Verizon last year acquired AOL and this year seems about to acquire Yahoo. These acquisitions make no sense–they appear to be nonsense.
Decades ago, America On-Line (AOL) started the email craze, joined years later by Yahoo. These two were significant brands, but both companies failed to reposition themselves as the world of new media and the Internet changed and morphed. They both were left behind. It does not help Yahoo that its servers seem to crash frequently and recently it suffered a massive hacking invasion.
It seems that Verizon is stuck in the past, acquiring decades old brands that no longer matter. Perhaps Verizon wants to potion itself as not only an access provider but also as a content provider. But the prime services offered by AOL and Yahoo are email—a service that Verizon already offers its access customers.
Somehow by now I would have hoped tat the media and communications worlds had learned that access is not content—and that both are “king.” Without access, there is no content—without content, access is useless. They go hand in hand—and are very different industries. Bell Atlantic and the other Baby Bells learned many decades ago that they knew little of Hollywood and content. It seems today that Bell Atlantic’s successor Verizon has forgotten these lessons and is intent on returning to the past of AOL and Yahoo.
Wow, what nonsense!
Dr Aleks Yankelevich gave a one hour Quello Center brown-bag presentation entitled “Regulating the Intranet: What is Special Access and Why is it Important?” (yes Intranet, not Internet) on January 26th 2016. His talk clarified the concept of special access, how it is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, and ended with some ideas on research that might focus on this relatively under-researched area.
Special access lines are dedicated high-capacity connections used by businesses and institutions to transmit their voice and data traffic. These connections are used by businesses to facilitate intranet communication, by wireless providers to funnel cell phone traffic between towers, and by banks to connect to their ATMs. When the costs of special access services increase, these costs are passed on by businesses to consumers. Because many parts of the United States face limited competition in the provision of special access, these services are highly regulated. In this brown-bag seminar, Aleks will discuss the significance of the special access market, why regulation of the intranet is relatively under-studied, and briefly explain a number of FCC related proceedings with respect to special access as well as his ongoing and potential research on the topic.
I had the pleasure of contributing to a panel at WSIS 2015 that focused on UNESCO’s Internet Study, and the report entitled ‘Keystones to Foster Inclusive Knowledge Societies’. My team at the Quello team, including Frank Hangler, supported the drafting of this report. The final version of that report should be available online very soon. The panel was organised for the C9 Action Line of the WSIS Forum 2015, held on 28 May 2015 in Geneva.
UNESCO’s summary of the discussion was on target, noting that:
“… free, independent and pluralistic media online and offline serve as a basis to the achievement of all Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, but they are under tremendous challenges and threats in the converged media landscape with ICTs and Internet, …”
UNESCO Release: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/resources/news-and-in-focus-articles/all-news/news/unesco_convened_10th_facilitation_meeting_of_action_line_c9_at_wsis_forum_2015/#.VWxoTuusd40
Bill Dutton’s Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/WHDutton/wsis-unesco2015