FCC Puts Regulation Cart Ahead of Services Horse

3:15 PM -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to know how it should regulate services delivered over broadband connections other than Internet access.

Such services can include IPTV, home security monitoring, telemedicine, and remote power management as part of a smart grid.

This is such early days for these kinds of services -- does it make sense to start regulating them when they don't really exist?

OK, AT&T has U-verse, which currently represents about 2 percent of the paid television market that is dominated by cable and satellite. Independent telcos are also offering IPTV on a much smaller scale, but many of them would be the first to tell you they are struggling to find the profit in video services, given the high cost of content.

Look at the other service categories, and you'll see a vast under-use of the technology that is available.

Telemedicine could enable seniors and the chronically ill to stay in their homes by monitoring their vital signs, their activity, and even whether they are taking their meds properly. But the struggle over how to pay for such services, given a complex value chain involving patients, service providers, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, keeps many good ideas from rapidly coming to market.

Similarly, one major hurdle to smart-grid implementation is the business case. Should utility companies build out two-way communications networks to enable the smart grid, or should they partner with the companies that already have such networks? Can these two industry groups find common ground and speed more sensible use of energy in the process?

If the FCC wants to step into this arena, it needs to come with answers, not more questions, and not regulations that will further stymie the development of new services that capitalize on the broadband connections into the home. I'm all for discussion of these topics, but they need to focus on how to stimulate these new services and markets.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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