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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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January 7, 2008 12:23 PM

In Vegas for CES: Pondering the Lessons to Be Learned From Casinos in Promoting Broadbad

I'm on the ground in Vegas preparing to head out to explore what many wondrous tech treasures the mega-conference CES has to offer.

Last night, while walking the Strip, my mind started to wander, taking in the sights and sounds of a casino-lined midnight street. For whatever reason, this carnival atmosphere got me thinking about broadband and the similarities between it and Vegas.

Vegas is an amalgam of stuff built on top of stuff, not to the extreme of a New York City, but enough so that you can see how growth has been organic, driven not by a central plan but by the interests of companies and individuals looking to create what they think is the best way to part people from their money.

Through this uneven growth many great successes have been realized and wondrous sites created, but you still can't shake the haphazard feeling of how today's Strip has come to be.

This was the first thought that got me thinking about broadband and the way it's been built out; a series of private companies and individuals deciding what they think is best without any semblance of a central, organizing plan.

There's another feeling I can't ignore when I'm in Vegas: the shallowness of it all. It's undoubtedly America's playground, but for what purpose? Do people feel satisfied when they leave (questionable)? Is there any real purpose here other than mindless entertainment (doubtful)?

Again my thoughts bled over to broadband as I couldn't ignore the reality that to date the impact of the Internet has been less than substantial on society as its use remains in large part limited to facilitate the delivery of light entertainment, videos of dogs chasing their tails and games that only help pass the time.

But in thinking this through further I came upon one huge difference between broadband and Vegas: in Vegas everything is geared around the central precept of cajoling people into spending as much money as possible. You can't go anywhere without finding a new way to spend your money; in fact, most of it's been designed so as to force you to walk past more opportunities to do so than you might like. And the casinos have spent billions in an attempt to create environments in which you're compelled to reach into your wallet and get into the game.

Now contrast this intent against broadband. To date, network operators have done relatively little to encourage the use of their core service of providing broadband access. There's little to no effort to get people to consume more bandwidth, to become "addicted" to its use or at least feel compelled to give it a try.

To draw from another Vegas analogy, I sometimes feel like network operators are in the business of selling timeshares. They want to get people to invest in timeshares, but not actually use them. Even more bizarre, they're fine if people show up, but they're not doing much to introduce customers to all the wonderful things that can be done there. And overall their focus seems much more on building out their services to influence public opinion and drive new customers rather than trying to maximize the experience of their existing customers.

I'll admit this analogy may not be a great one as I don't literally mean to draw parallels between network operators and timeshare peddlers, but I used it to drive home my point: there's a whole lot more network operators could, and probably should, be doing to encourage demand for their services.

In some instances, there is some small movement in this direction, but what we need is a seismic shift, something far beyond incremental steps, if we are to fully embrace the possibilities of broadband.

And despite my seemingly railing against network operators in this post, in actuality it's my belief that we won't be able to get where we want to go as quickly as we need to get there without the network operators being more engaged in the pursuit of increasing demand for bandwidth.

They've got the direct relationships with customers; they've got the networks and the ability to introduce a new era of quality of service online; so they can be the greatest partners in the push to make America broadband-enabled. If only they'd take the lesson on full display in Vegas that once you get the customer you should be working hard every day to increase their demand for your services.

But enough big-picture thought for now; it's time for me to focus on the task at hand: heading out to the conference to explore the latest and greatest in consumer electronics.

I'm going to have my laptop with me and am hoping to get some posts up throughout the day, but if not you can be sure I'll post a daily roundup of my experiences today and tomorrow in America's playground, now littered with the coolest cutting-edge toys.

Wish me luck!


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