What if local telephone companies were innovative? Three suggestions

by Andy Oram

So some of the Internet's leading lights, David Farber and Robert Kahn, are warning us not to support network neutrality because we'd stifle innovation by local telephone companies.

I am open to such arguments. As soon as the telephone companies announced their "two-tier Internet" and the network neutrality debate began, I published an article that criticized the telcos but showed that the issue was much too complex to be solved by a simple regulatory "No." Later I dissected the various legal approaches that were on the table and found them all problematic.

But all this is a joke, and you're laughing by now if you understand the background: the local telephone companies don't do innovation. To be more accurate, they're good at the incremental innovation that leads to more robust and efficient voice networks, but they have few clues how to sprout the disruptive innovation made famous by Clayton Christensen.

Rather, telephone companies have historically reacted in copy-cat fashion to competition. Currently they are resurrecting the old model, shrouded in the raiment of interactivity, of shoving Hollywood entertainment at passive viewers. The things we associate with Internet innovation--search, multimedia sites, social networking, Web 2.0--all originated outside the telcos.


1 Comments

Mark Tomin
2007-03-03 18:06:33
Telephone and cable companies in the US have learned to coexist for many years without facing any real compention. Only with the appearance of VOIP, and now IPTV, they have to wake up to the rise of smaller competitors throughout the country.


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