Powell evangelizes “Democratization of technology”

To hear Michael Powell in a Seattle speech last week, one would have thought the nation was in the midst of another dot.com high-tech boom. While lambasting the existing media regulations that he contends restrict the blossoming of a brave new “democratization of technology,” Powell attempted to circumvent his critics.

In the speech, which didn’t specifically mention the expected June 2 rule changes, Powell described a “digital migration” that will take broadcasters “from the old world marked by analog technologies, narrowband infrastructure, and the monopoly regulation model” to a new world marked by digital technologies, broadband infrastructure and “a broader minded view of regulation, informed by listening to technology more than lobbyists.”

Powell said that in the old world governments and monopolists are central. “The most important thing technology is doing is placing consumers and citizens more squarely in the driver’s seat of choosing and controlling their personal communications space,” he said. “This is having profound implications for how consumers communicate, how they are informed and how they must be reached by the purveyors of news and information like yourselves.

“Small more powerful chips, advances in memory and storage, and improvements in battery life are creating personal technology devices that allow individuals to take the reins, using personal computer devices to select and control what they see, when they see it and how they see it,” he continued. “They increasingly can configure their own communications networks and set the parameters of their use.”

Powell said the trends of television are an example of digital migration. In the 1960s, he said, broadcasting was a one-to-many medium when everyone gathered around to watch a favorite program at a given time. “We tuned in to listen to Walter Cronkite, or enjoy Uncle Milti. There certainly was a sense of community, but little diversity and little consumer control. Viewers were passive,” he said.

Cable television presented a new chapter of media, he continued. “It was able to create parochial television channels dedicated to history, sports, shopping, arts, movies, education and more. Now we enter Act III of mini-media and the TiVo generation. Consumers demand the ability to do more programming themselves. They want My Amazon, My Yahoo and My TV,” Powell said. “Personalization and personal control will become more central, presenting enormous challenges to television producers trying to communicate with Americans.”

For more information visit www.fcc.gov.

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