Way back in 1959, Texas-based two-way radio dealer John Carter released his Carterfone… a device that connected two-way radios to AT&T (then monopoly and all-caps) landlines allowing for easy communications among workers in the field and anybody with a telephone (dials, back then).

AT&T didn’t like it and sued claiming adverse impact on the sacrosanct network… a not totally unreasonable line of thinking.

But the courts threw the complaint to the Federal Confusion Commission in 1966, saying the FCC had jurisdiction.

In a surprise decision in 1968 (who ever thought the FCC was ever quick to act?), the FCC said, whoa! That’s OK… so long as the device meets technical standards. In 1975, the Commission then added Part 68 to its arcane body of rules and made the decision sort of universal… any device meeting technical standards could be attached to the network. After all, when the decision was made, that one common carrier more or less dominated the communications world.

You know what happened then. Cheap telephones, among other things, proliferated. But so did all kinds of new devices.

Now, I knew John Carter pretty well because, way back then, I was covering him closely. John was a true Texan, a great raconteur and drinking friend. He drove a Cadillac convertible with fins and horns from a longhorn on the hood. I doubt that’s Howard Stringer‘s ride. And Stringer doesn’t look much like John did, either.

But Stringer’s Sony has just cut a deal (with, among others, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House) that many believe is the end of the era of the set-top box.

I think that gets a little ahead of the story, though. What it really means is tru2way is (1) for real and (2) the cable industry has decided that wall around the garden is crumbling like the Berlin Wall did.

It doesn’t mean the end of the set-top box, though… inertia is a most powerful force.

It does mean that the proliferation of other boxes (such as SlingBox and computers of all sorts) will begin to explode. The Gumby is just a small example of the other kinds of "boxes" and devices that will appear. Many, such as akimbo, won’t survive. Many more will appear as features in TV sets, computers and game consoles.

It also means that cable is well on its way to countering the natural advantage of the DTH platforms’ national coverage with a plan to be able to compete—with some services and packages—nationally. It also means that cable is getting its collective act together faster and in a smarter way than ever before.

The announcement came from Sony and the NCTA.

Gonna be fun to watch.

* Had an Old Dog:… and his name was Balto. Our late, as of last Friday morning, Siberian Husky was born on the 4th of July 15 years ago. Smart dog. At a kennel in Colorado, he freed all of the other boarders—about 40 dogs—and led them out to the play yard where the staff found them the next morning. He once escaped his stockaded yard (8-foot fence, concrete two feet down and still found a way out!) with his littermate (sister Katya, still going strong), and late that night we picked them up at a sheriff’s substation two counties over. The pair was playing with a gaggle of smiling deputies on the floor. Long time, good family friend. Bummer, he’s gone.

The Daily


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