What if a 1% increase in broadband penetration equaled 300,000 jobs?

Often I take Robert X. Cringely‘s columns with a grain-of-salt, but this one entitled, “Game Over: The U.S. is unlikely to ever regain its broadband leadership” really hit me since I make my living on Internet-centric management consulting and view broadband as the key enabler of business going forward. Cringely’s article is an important one to read if you care about US competitiveness in the future.

Back in the mid-1990’s I had an ISDN line with a whopping 128kbps access for $69 per month. Incredibly fast at the time, I even considered their bonded option for 256kbps (well over $100 per month) but I wanted to stay married. Today I have 8mbps per second downstream and 768kbps upstream for essentially the same price.

I have friends in San Francisco with 10mbps symmetrical (both upload and download) for under $100 a month. Others using Verizon’s fiber (FIOS) and getting 15mbps down, 2mbps up for $50 per month.

But Cringely talks about the 100mbps speeds in Japan, others have complained about them being ahead of us too and the OECD’s April, 2007 report (which showed the US at 25th in global broadband penetration and speed) is open to debate. So is it important for us to have competitiveness in broadband speeds and why aren’t we — the inventor and creator of the Internet — in the world’s leading position for broadband speed and penetration?

When you think about the relative sizes of countries vs. US states, you begin to get a feel for the enormity of the problem. Japan is roughly the size of Montana, for example, and (as of 2001), 79% of the population lived in urban areas with ~20% in Tokyo alone. That makes it considerably easier to provide a high speed broadband infrastructure for the overwhelming majority of Japanese. It’s a lot tougher to do so across the vast geography that is the United States.

The stakes are too high, however, to NOT solve this accelerating need for true broadband. ArsTechnica has a good article on House Democrats and discussions about ‘true’ broadband. I’m not even going to get into the lobbying and politics of broadband, telephony and wireless, but suffice to say there are alot of complexities on why we’re NOT the world’s leader. What most discussions don’t focus on, however, is that broadband is viewed as a driver of gross domestic product (GDP) output and we need to be accelerating the Internet — both in speed and penetration — now.

What if a 1% increase in broadband penetration equaled 300,000 jobs? Read on for a very interesting set of data…

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The World is Awakening…

What happens when everyone becomes awake? I don’t mean from sleep, but rather have fully developed a level of consciousness that ensures they’re aware of human connection, ideas and possibilities in new and radical ways?

If you’re a C-level executive, strategist, marketer, in product development, sales, are a teacher or small businessperson (or frankly anyone), the accelerating shifts in consciousness will impact what you do or deliver…and probably already is whether you’re aware of it or not.

My work in Web/Enterprise 2.0, community and communications through the Internet-as-a-platform means that I am seeing and experiencing this awakening on a daily basis. Simple things like watching people come together in a collaborative space and discovering how important it is to have everyone see the same vision of a product so they’re in sync; understanding the importance of ritual in a virtual meeting (e.g., how to lead a session and ensure everyone has a voice); deepening their understanding of markets and the people within them; and the inner drive people are exhibiting to move toward a vision for humanity that they live by. Businesses ignore this at their own peril.

This article in Fast Company (a publication I’m respecting more than ever as they push against the membrane of the future with articles like this one) is kinda, sorta a mashup about new concepts in ‘green’, activist capitalism, and open source and is one of the most fascinating examples I’ve seen for some time about strategies and concepts tapping into this awakening world and an ever-expanding human consciousness.

It starts out, “Somewhere between the Oscar for Al Gore’s planetary-disaster epic, An Inconvenient Truth, and the canonization of Angelina Jolie by the United Nations (in association with People (NYSE:TWX) magazine), the message started sinking in: The cultural conversation around the environment, social change, and human rights is approaching maximum velocity. What is arguably urgent has become inarguably hip.” To me, the operative words are “cultural conversation”, “maximum velocity” and “inarguably hip” in that paragraph and it is blatantly obvious to me that the company discussed in this feature couldn’t have happened until now.

As I read I realized that all that I’ve been seeing and experiencing recently — both on and offline — is but a tip-of-the-iceberg of this global awakening.

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Live TV on the Internet

Searching for innovation in live, streaming video brought me to Mogulus last night. I’ve been enamored with uStream, Stickam and BlogTV but realize how limited and “Webcam-centric” they are currently.

Since Mogulus is in beta right now, I’ve not yet had a chance to put it through its paces. Viewing the video, going through this online presentation (that had too many people in it which caused a hiccup on Adobe’s servers), looking at the screenshots absolutely blew me away.

Here’s what excited me about this service:

a) The capability to deliver a live show with graphics, over-the-shoulder images like the news, crawls and more which look professional

b) Having multiple other people — all connected through their own webcams or cameras — allows a host or producer to switch between “feeds” instantly (“…and now let’s go to our correspondent live at the conference…”)

c) In advance of a live show, a storyboard can be created of assembled videos that can be in the queue and inserted into the live show at the click of a mouse

d) Assembled content can be delivered sequentially so a “channel” or “station” you create can broadcast programming 24/7. This meets the old broadcaster mantra of “no dead air” on a channel, but archived content needs to be available on-demand and I didn’t see how Mogulus could achieve that for viewers.

Just days ago I wrote in this post:

I’ve brought up scale over-n-over again on this blog and I know that streaming video is really hard and the bandwidth needed is expensive. What if a hot ‘show’ is streamed on Stickam or uStream and has even 1% of the disappearing network TV show audience (37.5 million viewers in the US in March for broadcast networks), there is NO way that any of these lower end solutions would be up to the task of streaming to an audience of 375,000 people…let alone millions.

When individuals, companies or organizations start down a path of choosing superior communication technologies, they are placing a bet. I view many solutions — Skype, Stickam, uStream, and many Web 2.0 solutions — are bleeding edge and not a safe bet.”

If you have a small audience, no problem. An important event that you need to have rock solid and guaranteed uptime? I wouldn’t use any service that wouldn’t provide me with an SLA (Service Level Agreement guaranteeing service parameters).

Mogulus will be one to watch as will similar live streaming offerings coming from Brightcove as well as the recently announced Flash streaming service from Akamai (more info here and a video with Akamai’s streaming product manager here).

Figure out right now how you’ll be delivering live TV over the Internet starting this Fall or expect that this time next year you’ll be kicking yourself you didn’t start sooner!

Communication breakthroughs…

With free time this weekend to explore online, I was able to perform a cursory examination of the landscape of breakthrough communications providers in telephony, web conferencing and streaming video (the last one I’ll discuss in this post). Certainly not a comprehensive analysis by any means, but it gave me a good sense of where we are and what needs to yet happen.

As you can see from this screenshot from one of my non-public ‘test’ blogs, I was goofin’ around and testing streaming video offerings from Stickam and uStream. The former has been around awhile longer so I like their technology better and it works great, but they’re targeting a young, social network crowd and positioning streaming as a way to connect with one another. Cool but not yet useful for business purposes (yeah…I care about the social stuff but we need commerce too!).

uStream is certainly driving toward a more serious technology user — and people that are interested in delivering value of some sort with shows and connecting with an audience — so it suits my needs, those of my clients, and just about everyone else I know that is in business, education or an organization of some sort….but can it or any of these shows deliver?

Listening (and once watching a uStream streaming video) Leo Laporte of TechTV and now TwIT fame, he’d talked with the founders of uStream (on Net@Nite with Amber Macarthur) about one of his shows which he had streamed live. He had just over 4,000 viewers and the server blew up. The uStream team is remedying that problem but this brings up my #1 issue: to be serious contenders, these communications technologies must scale.

I’ve brought up scale over-n-over again on this blog and I know that streaming video is really hard and the bandwidth needed is expensive. What if a hot ‘show’ is streamed on Stickam or uStream and has even 1% of the disappearing network TV show audience (37.5 million viewers in the US in March for broadcast networks), there is NO way that any of these lower end solutions would be up to the task of streaming to an audience of 375,000 people…let alone millions.

When individuals, companies or organizations start down a path of choosing superior communication technologies, they are placing a bet. I view many solutions — Skype, Stickam, uStream, and many Web 2.0 solutions — are bleeding edge and not a safe bet. That said, I’m experiencing many solutions myself and know exactly what I (and many of my clients) want but believe that we’re not quite there yet…

…but man, are we close.

Scaling Web 2.0: The Dirty Little Secret Exposed?

Was very pleased to see Tim O’Reilly bringing forth the issue of Web 2.0 scaling and Ray Ozzie’s perspective. This is such a vitally important issue and it needs analysis, facts and discussion and big time thought leading exposure.

I first wrote about the “dirty little secret” of Web 2.0 back in December of 2005. That secret is that infrastructure, bandwidth and minimizing latency is a huge issue for startups and is one little discussed.  It’s one I know first hand from a conferencing startup I worked with last year — and informing developers is an imperative since this dirty little secret will impact rich, internet applications; mashups; widgets; and other composite applications delivered going forward.

This problem becomes more acute as we all pull data from geographically disbursed hosted online services. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited…and waited…and waited….for some data to appear in a widget, an ad served from DoubleClick, or a startpage pulling simple RSS text data from dozens of different sources. Imagine when several, dozens or numerous interdependent sources (ones that pull data from other services to deliver a composite web service that is, in turn, consumed by yet another new application!). It’s a recipe for disaster unless managed at a world-class level.

Now that more of us are playing with video, Flash and, especially, streaming video (e.g., uStream and like what I did at a low level yesterday with Skype video), the challenges in betting a business, a workshop series, a product category or composite applications means that we all better get more informed about this issue and damn fast.

I’ve said before that one key to the dotcom crash was HUGE amounts of content and functionality being shoved into the top of the funnel while those of us consuming it were drinking from the tiny end of the funnel through 56kbps straws.

I fear that unless this dirty little secret is handled and done so by disseminating understanding amongst ALL creators, developers, business strategists and users of Web/Enterprise 2.0 products and services, users expectations are going to be dashed and it will create material barriers to adoption and use. Maybe not another crash, but the barriers and obstacles that will come are preventable with enhanced understanding and knowledge dissemination.

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Internet Innovation and Optimizing the Status Quo

Minnesota is a great place to live and raise kids. Yes, the winters are brutal but the benefits outweigh the troubles. So much so that most of my 600+ high school graduating class members still live hereafter several decades.

There are A LOT of smart people in the Land of 10,000 Lakes — both home grown and those transplanted here. Successful businesses abound like Target, Best Buy, Medtronic, General Mills, 3M, UnitedHealth Group and many, many more. World class businesses and leadership in their respective industries. But as the world of business gets increasingly mapped on to the Internet, it’s highly unlikely that these organizations will lead us to the promised land of Internet innovation. They’ll just wait and see who is successful and leverage capital to buy-in strategically. Sadly this is often a too-little-too-late move.

Frequently I complain about my conversations with leaders in Minnesota and how I first need to educate them on Web 2.0 and Internet-as-a-platform before we can have a productive conversation about the paradigm shifts and disruption occurring. The next challenge is how to work on driving forward strategically and embracing the changes. “Why aren’t you already innovating on the rapidly accelerating Internet platform?“, I’ll ask. The answers range from “Not sure what to do” to “it’s not a big deal for my business yet“. The former we can work on…the latter closes the door.

Closing the door isn’t an option in a time of accelerating change. Every client I have and every industry I analyze is being disrupted in some fashion by the Internet. Fortunately there are thought leaders guiding us.

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Vision: THE most important first step…

Nothing happens without a vision. Nothing gets created, manifested, built, or moved forward without a vision of an outcome.

Almost on a daily basis, I’m being bombarded with the benefits of visualization in my work, my personal life and as I guide others. If you don’t already visualize before you set personal goals, build a plan or, especially, if you lead an organization, team, or group, then you owe it to yourself to begin.

Just to illustrate how vision is showing up everywhere, at the Web 2.0 Expo’s Hybrid Designer session Chris Messina said something that hit me in the face and has stuck with me.  In a discussion about the challenges facing designers with a creative vision struggling to get programmers to see the outcome of that vision so they could code to it, he talked about how he mocked up a visual when they were creating Flock, posted it to Flickr so that the geographically disbursed development team could all get on a call and talk about that vision. Without that shared vision, Chris said, the coordination of the team on a shared vision would’ve taken 6 weeks and dozens of threads in a discussion forum. Instead, it took 2-3 days.

No question this sharing of vision — and the co-creating that goes along with that sharing — is the single reason that I’m so incredibly enthused about the accelerating connection of humanity via the Internet and all the open source projects, Web 2.0 startups, and commercial software companies that are rushing to deliver ever-increasingly functional collaborative applications and platforms.

After dozens of people my bride and I know talked about the film The Secret, she purchased it. It was very well done and focused on one piece of sage wisdom: The Secret is a feature length, historic and factually based account of an age old secret, said to be 4000 years in the making, and known only to a fortunate few. The Secret promises to reveal this great knowledge to the world – the secret to wealth, the secret to health, the secret to love, relationships, happiness, eternal youth, the secret to life. The secret? The Law of Attraction which is creating a vision of what you want and expect to show up…and how it works when you align your intent, your energy and your focus on it.

Why should I care about vision Borsch?

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EFF Pioneer Awards

Last night I attended the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Awards. Just simply being at this event and absorbing the vibe was meaningful for me and I’ll bring forth a perspective that may be atypical and worth putting into the conversation about EFF.

Nearly four years ago was the first time that I donated to EFF and began my support of this organization. Though I look like “a suit”, a Republican and a mainstream sort of guy, I’m an independent, a closet liberal, enjoy some Libertarian leanings and am quite open to growing in my perspective as I learn — especially legally and politically — as we all push against the membrane of the future.

Five or so years ago I became more enlightened. I was stunned by the multiple, parallel, onrush of efforts by copyright holders, Congress, world intellectual capital bodies, governments globally as well as intelligence communities, to command, control and infiltrate all aspects of the Internet.  As I started to try getting my head wrapped around even a few of the issues, I realized that there was NO way that I could be competently informed about even ONE of these issues shaping our future….let alone dozens of them at a time!

Enter the EFF. I learned that here was an organization whose mission was to be that competent, informed entity who’d act to intervene, stop or shape the debate about the most important issues facing us in our digital future. With more and more of our relationships, commerce, free speech, entertainment — you name it — being created or delivered digitally, I (and you) could either pull the covers over our collective heads or get involved…and support those who’ve rolled up their sleeves, dug their hands in the muck and are in the fray.

So that’s what I did.  Last night was great for a lot of reasons and validated (in spades) the vital importance of this organization and the people who’ve dedicated money, support and all or part of their lives to the mission.

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Mobile Global Grid: When the World is At Your Fingertips

Like me, if you’re paying any attention to the signs, trends and foundational elements upon which innovation in technology occurs, then you have to be seeing what I’m seeing…it’s sooo close.  Do you see it?

Right there. Don’t see it yet? OK then, let’s push against the membrane of the future together for a minute.

If you look now you can just make out a mobile device, connected to a ubiquitous wireless network (that you can use even when you’re miles from a major metro area, off the autobahn or Interstate highway system, or at some point in the future on the Serengeti plain in Africa) and is so simple to use that you’re able to connect and re-connect to the global grid in an instant and have all the world’s knowledge at your fingertips.

When you’re in your car, at a restaurant, a dinner party, at a business meeting, at school…anything connected to the global grid you’re authorized or able to grab is yours for the snagging from a device in your hand.

We’re partially there now and more is coming.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Apple’s eagerly anticipated iPhone is the closest concept yet to a just beyond the membrane of the future simple to use, multi-function device that will be useful for the masses to leverage our currently decent wireless network…and is one set to expand dramatically.

According to GigaOM today, there are distinct chunks of spectrum that hold the promise of mass geographical coverage and expanding the grid. An increasing number of mobile communications online applications are proliferating (e.g., this list at eConsultant). The World Wide Web Consortium’s Mobile Initiative adds even more fuel to the fire of a mobile, global grid.

Couple that with the always-on, always-connected, culture of participation (see “Rise of the Participation Culture“) and you have a brew from which all sorts of possibilities come forth!

Though I look like some geek when I do this, at least twice a week I’ll be in a conversation and someone will say something like, “You know…that ocean…the one by (country here)….what’s that called?”  I’ll whip out my Treo, go to Google, enter a search string and, I swear to God, almost instantly I can find a reference to that country and there’s an obvious link that contains the data where I can answer that question. It’s a bit of a conversation stifler at the moment as I futz with the device, but I’m pretty good at glossing over my thumbing on the Treo, we carry on the conversation, and I circle back to the fact and insert it into our discussion. Works great.

Did this at a dinner party one evening awhile back when people were struggling with an artist and a song. No one knew, the conversation continued, and about two minutes later I mentioned the artist. “OH YEAH!” came the head-slap comments and we carried on. Trivial in the scheme of life I realize, but extend this to the DOZENS OF TIMES PER DAY that I look something up on Google, use Google Maps, find a phone number on Directory Assistance, send SMS messages, send a photo/blog post to one of my private client blogs, use Instant Messaging….all from applications that run on my Treo!

So how is this going to transform the world? In ways predictable but mostly ones that are not. Who knows what will be the killer application for the always connected world — especially when better geotracking is in the mix?  What I do know is that some of it is already here…and if you push just hard enough on the membrane of the future you’ll have a good indication of what’s coming.

Why TV Will Never Be The Same!

JumpTV (click for larger view)

I’m amazed at what comes my way every single day as the Internet explodes as a platform and — besides the obvious sites on everyone’s radar screen like YouTube, Revver and Brightcove — there are other very interesting ones *and* the tools to create extremely high quality visual content are accelerating too. So let’s connect a couple of dots that hit my radar screen today as further evidence as to why TV will never be the same.

Case in point: a colleague’s son-in-law is involved with JumpTV and he sent me an email as an FYI with several attached links (here, here, here and here) about the company.

I went out to their site and was delighted to see the capability to stream live video from many other countries all over the world. Though there are other solutions for streaming live TV, this is the first one that seems as straightforward as needed so that non-technical people can subscribe and watch IPTV.

I immediately emailed my friend John who married a woman from Peru (who works in international marketing here in Minnesota for a Fortune 100 company and my family and I traveled to Peru for the wedding two years ago…but I digress). I’m pretty certain that she’ll find it wonderful to be able to watch a channel(s) from home over the internet (as well as her ex-patriated friends from Peru now living here). JumpTV is making the world just a little bit smaller by this enriched content being available to those interested.

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