Last Friday, Revision3 was one of a handful of companies invited to come to Washington to help congress and the executive branch understand some of the unique issues our industry faces – including net neutrality, open access and more. We were invited by the good folks at Public Knowledge http://www.publicknowledge.org/about , a Washington public interest group dedicated to defending “your rights in the emerging digital culture”.
From their website:
Our first priority is promote innovation and the rights of consumers, while working to stop any bad legislation from passing that would slow technology innovation, shrink the public domain, or prevent fair use.
I was joined in DC by some good friends in the industry – Hillcrest Labs , maker of the Loop and the Kylo browser, the makers of the Over The Top Popbox http://www.popbox.com/www/, and the folks from PlayOn, great software that lets you access Hulu, PBS, Netflix and other internet video on your Xbox and PS3 http://www.playon.tv/playon.
The day started with a show and tell at the Rayburn Building, which is where our congress folks have their offices. Each of us showed off our products and services to a steady stream of congressional staffers, along with a few interested parties from the FCC.
After that, we went to the White House’s New Executive Office Building, and met with Jim Kohlenberger, the head of science and tech policy for the president, and some of his staffers. They’re very focused on Over The Top (OTT), what it means, and how to make sure there’s a level playing field.
While we won’t see any short term benefits from our efforts, it’s good to know that our government is very concerned about what’s happening in this space, including issues of open access, net neutrality, and even defining the difference between a dumb display and intelligent, internet accessible devices.
That particular issue came up when we were talking about Hulu, Fox, NBC and other networks blocking access to some of the other companies in our group, along with Google TV and other OTT boxes and browsers. Some of the, frankly, anti-competitive efforts from some of these larger media companies shocked me – although the government staffers listening seemed unsurprised.
It was a good trip to DC, and here are just some of the things I learned:
– Congress is actually run by an army of 20-something staffers. A good few knew of us, and I think I converted a few others into fans as well.
– Jim Kohlenberger, Obama’s technology policy czar, is a card carrying geek, professed his admiration for TechTV, and knew all about Diggnation before I even said anything.
– We’ve got stiff competition. When big industries are being disrupted (like when CableTV threatened broadcast), the incumbents tend to spend 1% of the revenue at risk on lobbying efforts. And when it comes to traditional TV and internet access, that’s a heck of a head wind.
– The FCC is now focusing on an interesting concept called “AllVid” http://www.publicknowledge.org/allvid, which aims to eliminate cable card and allow cable TV subscribers to use a wide range of devices to connect to their pay TV service. Imagine your Roku or Boxee box providing access to web video and Cable/Satellite TV services as well. If AllVid is successful, you might never have to rent a set-top box again!
Oh, and I learned one more thing. You’re not allowed to give T-shirts to members of the President’s staff (I asked). So much for my visions of President Obama wearing a Diggnation jersey at his next press conference.