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January 15, 2007

Who Needs Towers?

“Who needs a broadcast tower?”  is the title of a short post today by Jeff Jarvis on BuzzMachine.  He’s riffing on a post by Marshall Kirkpatrick reporting that KZSW in Temecula, California may be the first local station to post its content on YouTube.

Always glad to answer the good questions that Jeff asks.  The answer is that soon no one will need a BROADCAST tower because all content will be available via the Internet.  But towers, themselves, will be MORE VALUABLE than ever.


Not a contradiction at all.  We’ll need the towers so that we can get access to the Internet no matter where we are and no matter how fast we’re moving.  That’s how we’ll get our car music, voice, and video.  The tall existing towers of radio stations and TV stations already have been built and most have good standby power.  Moreover, there are big data pipes going to them to deliver programming; tomorrow those pipes can provide access to the Internet backbone.

Broadcasting will happen on the Internet,  The towers that are no longer needed for broadcast will be used for access. Simple and exciting.

Existing TV and radio franchises have four drivers of value: their programming, their listenership, the frequencies they have licenses for, and their physical broadcast facilities.

The programming’ll move to the Web.  Marshall Kirkpatrick makes the excellent point that the existence of YouTube and other web hosting services reduces the amount that individual stations have to invest in technology and infrastructure to make this transition.

Those broadcasters who make the move fast enough will keep their listenership; those who don’t won’t.

My hope is that the frequencies become open spectrum as they are no longer needed for local broadcast.  Remains to be seen who reaps the value of these.

Physical facilities will be spun off to provide access but may well gain in value in the process.

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas has proposed a bonding authority which will use a significant part of its capital to build access towers in the state.  He understands what towers are need for.  Of course, Vermont, already known for recycling, may be able to reuse broadcast towers as well as it implements its plan to be come the first e-state.

Internet 2.0 is Open Spectrum is more about this future.

Backstory of Open Spectrum Epiphany is about content moving from the air to the web.

We Do Need a Gigabit Over the Air is about all the over-the-air bandwidth we need.

Daddy, What’s a Channel? is about channels becoming obsolete as the broadcast model changes.

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