|By Roger Brown, Editorial Director, Telecom Group|
"Perhaps Perlman is simply too far ahead
of his time"
Invited by an admittedly antagonistic Sen. Fritz Hollings, Tauzin chose to avoid any confrontation. Tauzin's spokesman said the representative is "smart enough to know when he's being lured into a trap" and that he has "no intention of seeing his head hang on the wall somewhere in the Senate."
So what should the American public infer from Tauzin's refusal? That he doesn't have the backbone to stand up for his principles? Or could it be this has less to do with what Americans want and more to do with what powerful lobbyists insist we can't live without?
Political gamesmanship and grandstanding aside, Tauzin and co-sponsor John Dingell knew their much-publicized bill was dead on arrival in the Senate. So far, a distracted White House has yet to weigh in on any sort of national broadband agenda to tip the scale in one direction or another. But that's not necessarily bad; I think it's still way too early to try to shape a nascent industry via compromise-driven legislation.
Do we need a national broadband agenda? Do we need a strategy to ensure that everyone who wants high-speed access can get it? In my book, that's called a free and open marketplace, unencumbered by legislation that tries to fix something that's not broken.
Pity set-top manufacturers Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta. They're often the lightning rod of criticism for being stodgy, non-innovative and slow. Yet they continue to survive–and thrive–even in the face of significant potential competition.
Case-in-point is the latest fiasco advanced by Moxi Digital. Here's a company that toiled in stealth mode as Rearden Steel Technologies until its glitzy coming-out party this past January. CEO Steve Perlman (of WebTV fame) took the wraps off his Moxi Media Center, a fully-featured gateway device that would transport voice, video and data signals throughout the house. It was cool. It was slick.
But within just a few weeks, it was revealed that Moxi was burning cash at an alarming rate and that Perlman was stepping aside so that he would be free to continue to dream up cool, innovative stuff. In the meantime, not a single broadband operator (cable, satellite or otherwise) has shown much public interest in Moxi's approach and insiders question many of Perlman's claims.
Perhaps Perlman is simply too far ahead of his time. Or maybe this episode is just more proof that cool technology is fun to experiment with, but kicking out the incumbent won't be easy.