5 observations for 2011

A new year and time for my annual predictions slash wish list…

1. Net Neutrality takes a beating…

In 2010 we saw actions on the part of large internet service providers that set the stage to put limits on a free and open access internet. In 2011 expect to see more aggressive moves on the part of internet service providers to set caps on usage and even limit access to particular sites. Some of this will be prompted in Canada by the vertical integration of media companies that we saw in 2010. The move to actually censor internet content will come from federal governments in the interest of national security and safety of its citizens. The FCC in the US and the CRTC in Canada will declare the internet as a ‘broadcast’ medium thus bringing what is currently an unregulated platform under some form of regulation and subject to legislation. By 2012 you will need a government issued license to have a website.

2. Web video becomes mainstream…

Video viewing on the internet will increase but delivering long form premium content such as news and entertainment programming designed for the web will become more popular.  The adoption by a non-geek audience is the major influencing factor. Along with mainstream content being delivered in bundled packages similar to cable television, unique offerings from independent content creators will increase, giving rise to a whole new segment of the production industry. In particular there will be a focus on local and hyper-local news coverage.

3. Apple iPad will maintain it’s momentum…

Not a genius prediction but 2011 will see little in the way of non-Apple iPad tablets penetrating the market. The iPad is almost perfect for the tasks it’s designed for and the market of users it’s aimed at. So far Windows tablets just don’t get it. Android or even Chrome based tablets might make a small dent but maybe not until 2012 since Apple has too much of a head start on the competition in this area.

4. Facebook will continue to dominate…

Another no brainer but even though it’s reaching a saturation point, Facebook will continue to grow in subscribers. More to the point though is in how subscribers will use what has become the number one social networking site. More time spent on Facebook by subscribers can be expected with limits on who they friend and how much personal information they share out. BTW: MySpace will teeter on the verge of non-existence but will be bought up by some outfit like Google or Microsoft or even Apple thus breathing new life into a social network that has fallen behind thanks to poor management.

5. Internet access declared a utility by some communities…

Smaller communities will realize that the need to be connected to the internet is important to retaining business and citizens. Since large internet service providers don’t see the profit margin in providing services to smaller communities when compared to population dense urban centres they will be reluctant to provide high-speed services to these smaller communities thus creating a digital divide. In 2010 there were some towns in North America and the UK who have taken on the task of providing their citizens with high-speed internet as a utility along with power, water and other essential services. Expect to see more municipalities taking on the role of internet service provider with the outcome being a head-to-head competitive battle with the major providers over residence and business subscribers.

When local TV isn’t local

The local TV station in Red Deer, Alberta shut down in August 2009 after their parent company Canwest-Global failed to find a buyer for the specialty network they were part of. At its peak as a local TV station, RDTV (aka CHCA-TV) employed over one-hundred people. In less than two years, Canwest-Global had reduced staffing to less than ten. Where did these people go and what was the negative economic impact to the region as a result?

Local TV stations have been facing cutbacks and outright elimination at an accelerating rate during the past five years. This not only limits access to local news and events but has a strong negative effect on the local economy. It’s simple: stations close and people lose their jobs. Their contribution to the health of the local economy is reduced and the small businesses in the area suffer. Add to that, the loss of tax revenue for the local town or city.

There is a local TV model being promoted by Corus Audio & Advertising Services Ltd (owned by Shaw Communications) which delivers local content from a central location to a network of targeted communities and offers up advertising for local and regional businesses. Where it stops being local is in the actual production process. The Corus model makes use of production facilities somewhere in British Columbia with the broadcast signal branded and promoted as being local to the communities which receive the signal. This provides no new jobs in the communities and the dollars paid out by local advertisers leave the area. A similar model is being used by the Weather Network in providing local forecasts on cable and satellite TV along with national programing. Mostly national and not much local. They currently have an application submission into the CRTC for review.

This model appears to be an attempt to bring local TV back to life and fill the gap created by the large broadcast networks moving to non-local content but it isn’t truly local or reflective of the communities we call home. The only true local TV is content produced locally by the people of the community. The MyLocal1/Corus channel and similar models can be called local but they aren’t.