If you haven't been following the a la carte cable discussion, basically congress is debating whether they should require cable & satelite companies to allow users to pick and choose which cable channels they want. Some are even asking for this in the name of decency and making sure that parents can prevent their children from seeing unwanted materials. Others take a consumer rights approach. For whatever reason they support this, they are making a nice argument that would have been pertinent 10 or 15 years ago.
My guess is that members of congress are far more responsible than I am and spend less time watching The Daily Show clips online. If they were to spend a little more time procrastinating, then they would see that A La Carte cable almost already exists.
Comedy Central Motherload + Video Ipod + WiMax + TiVO Mobile + Vonage = A La Carte Cable, or almost. What I am talking about is TVIP, Television Over Internet Protocol. Moore's law is a fascinating thing that almost everyone in the world has come to expect and accept, with the exception of the entertainment industry. Computers Double, Hard Drives Double, Bandwidth Doubles. Traditional distribution systems of information are being suplemented and in many cases surplanted by electronic distribution.
In the not so distant future, cable companies are going to be like bus companies. They will transport information to and fro, but the decision as to what gets moved from place to place will lie largely in the hands of the consumer (I don't have to tell you that, you're reading a blog).
All economics is driven by two efficiencies: 1) efficiency of work & production - how fast you can get a given unit of work done and 2) efficiency of transportation - how fast you can move a person, product, or idea from place to place. TVIP presents a more efficient means of transporting video as compared to fixed broadcast cable and satellite. Therefore, TVIP will win out. There will be a longtail of television.
Whether this is a net gain, or will present us with a paradox of choice which will lower our overall well being I am not sure. But, we're soon going to see a day when the timing of this debate had a tragic comic element of irony to it. They're debating the rules of dinner when the world is going to end after lunch - it just doesn't make sense.
Maybe then there will be a Retire At 30 IVcast (internet video cast) or VODCast if you have to use the 'correct' name for it.