I wrote ‘Why the Internet Won’t Solve Everything‘ in late 2010. It has received a fair amount of attention, is still being read by new people every day and has resulted in invitations to speak at many conferences around the world. Typical reactions to my presentations on the topic are ‘I’ve never seen this side before’ or ‘This is the first time I realise that the internet needs help.’
The original article is however rather long. A shorter version follows.
Why the Internet Won’t Solve Everything (and Why Broadcasting Will Prevail)
Telecom networks go down or become jammed if too may people use them at the same time, i.e. during emergencies or big events. Broadcasting networks reach an infinite number of users.
The internet is a playground for gatekeepers who sit between the sender of a message (content) and the recipent. A gatekeeper can be a government utilizing censorship, an internet service provider that limits or charges for certain content or someone that controls a platform or creates a walled garden, i.e. Apple or Facebook. In April 2012, Google’s Sergey Brin warned against a dedemocratization of the internet.
The Internet is vulnerable to hacking and can relatively easily be sabotaged. All you need is a computer and some knowhow. Viruses can also do similar damage.
Broadcasting chipsets consume a lot less power than chipsets that enables internet access (GPRS/3G/4G/Wi-Fi). Broadcasting is greener and makes batteries last longer. A telecom chipset typically uses at least 15 times more power.
Broadcasters must pay around 3 Euro cents per GB to transfer it via the internet. If Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) were to distribute its radio and TV offering via the internet, it would cost 150 million Euro a year. Highly hypotetical since the infrastructure can’t cope.
Internet is not free and you have to pay for access (unless you find an open Wi-Fi zone).
The mobile internet is not wide enough and 4G will not solve the problem. An LTE network covering 90% of the UK population would require 16,000 transmitters. To cover the same with DMB/DAB+ would take around 300 transmitters. The difference in costs is huge.
The internet works poorly when the recipent travels (especially at high speeds). This particularly applies with capacity demanding content such as radio and TV. Normal web browsing is usually OK, as it can be done asynchronously. DMB/DAB+ works well in speeds up to 900 km/h (tested on planes, trains and automobiles).
Internet through broadband is neither broad nor stable if you are far away from a switch. That includes a lot of households in rural areas and means web TV of the lowest quality – if at all.
Broadcasting is not limited to live radio or TV. It can be used to distribute any form of data, often more cost effectively than via mobile networks. Broadband Isn’t Only for Radio and TV.
The internet may never be the same as net neutrality is being challenged in various countries. Some ISPs now also want to charge from both consumers and content providers. Telenor Takes on Google.
Broadcasting is designed to carry a signal far afield. To cover 99.5% of Norway with digital radio will for instance take approximately 550 transmitters. To do the same with 3G or 4G will take several tens of thousands (16,000 LTE transmitters to cover 90% of the UK).
Always have a backup plan. You do not want all services to use the same infrastructure as this creates vulnerable systems that can easily fail or may be taken down.
Several countries have introduced The Data Retention Directive which states that all electronic communication will be stored for up to one year for national governments. Web activity will leave a trace, what you consume via broadcasting will not. More about the directive here.
It is neither economical nor effective to distribute double. The Internet cannot cope with enormous amounts of concurrent TV and radio streams. Broadcasting will be needed “forever” and to build peak resistant web infrastructure is not viable. Double Distribution, Don’t Do It.
The data explosion continues, increasing 70 times the next 15 years. There are 5 billion connected devices in the world. That will increase to 50 billion in 2020 (with 7.6 billion people) thanks to more cloud computing and M2M services. To transfer all radio and TV traffic, in addition to everything else that will be going via the net, does not make any sense,
Some argue that frequencies should be taken from broadcasters and given to MNOs/ISPs in order to provide more bandwidth. This would be very shortsighted as shown in The Economic value of Broadcast Innovation – Impact on the U.S. Treasure which was publsihed by Business Analytix Inc. in November 2011: ‘A linear increase in the supply of spectrum cannot solve a geometric increase in demand for mobile data.’ Spectrum must remain divided between broadcasters and MNOs/ISPs to avoid monopoly like situation.
Broadcasting does not discriminate, the internet does. What you read, watch or listen to is more and more often influenced by your previous behavious online or even what your friends do. Personalization is about to make a class divide between internet users. Even a web search for the exact same phrase by two individuals may return very different answers depending on who is searching, from where and what they have been previously done online.
Radio and television will “always” be best live. Neither sports nor news (especially breaking news) is well suited for watching or listening to “on demand” all programs will have to premiere at one point and being served a program, as opposed to having to go get it youself is luxury! To mention a few reasons. More here.
Unless there is an option to the internet, broadcasters will have to fight over bandwidth with everyone else offering services. That weakes the bargaining power of broadcasters in order to distribute radio and television programmes and channels.
Video killed the internet star. On demand video is alone responsible for almost 50% of all data traffic in the US. Yet, it only accounts for 2% of viewing times. 33% of all data traffic is caused by one company, Netflix.
I do of course not oppose the internet. It opens up for amazing possibilities. What I do believe in is a combination of technologies. Combine broadcasting and the internet, and you’re in for the real fun. Just look at the second screen experience, people using social media while watching TV. This will happen more and more, in much more inovative ways than we see today and on the first screen itself. Use the right tool for the job. And a tool may still work perfectly even though it wasn’t invented yesterday. Like the wheel.
The internet will not and cannot solve everything.
The full text version of this blog post can be found here.