The Evolution of Video Streaming and Digital Content Delivery

It is a time of great change in telecommunications -- new platforms have emerged that stream video and voice over the Internet and deliver content via tablets and smartphones.

These systems have broadened our horizons with respect to communications, entertainment, and commerce.

This paper examines the future of video streaming and digital content delivery systems during a time of major transformation. It discusses what these changes mean for people, businesses, and governments.

The argument is made that there are many opportunities in the move to a multi-platform world and new models have the potential to become more flexible, adaptive, and cost-effective. But Federal Communications Commission leaders need to promote innovation that maximizes the benefits of new developments.

We need to make sure that those living in rural areas, in addition to elderly and disabled populations, are able to reap the benefits of the technology revolution. Several benchmarks in the evolution of video streaming and digital content delivery include:

  • The explosive growth of video streaming
  • The Internet protocol transition
  • Smart devices and the “Internet of Things”
  • Improving spectrum access
  • Protecting consumers during periods of technological disruption

How to Ensure that Streaming Video Doesn’t Crush the Internet

Streaming video sites like Netflix and YouTube account for more than half of downstream Internet traffic. These tectonic shifts require new infrastructure investments to ensure quality and consistent delivery.

These changes also create opportunities for consumers across the economy in healthcare, education, and entertainment. The speed at which Internet services are evolving presents challenges for government regulators tasked with ensuring access to disadvantaged populations. It also strains a national broadband system that faces steep demands for faster Internet from consumers.

On May 2, 2014 the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings will host a panel of industry experts to address the future of digital content delivery in the United States, including a conversation on how the explosion of video streaming is changing how we consume content. Darrell West, Vice President of Governance Studies and Founding Director of the Center for Technology Innovation will lead a discussion on his findings and data from the forthcoming paper “Video Streaming and Content Delivery”.

Three Ways Mesh Networks with Peer-to-Peer Connections Can Revolutionize Communications (without the Internet)

Imagine a mobile application where you can share messages and photos with other users, but without an Internet connection.

These applications take advantage of mesh networking. In a mesh network devices use Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections and Wi-Fi networks to communicate “off the grid“.

Engineers originally developed the technology for the military. Over the years small scale projects have found varying levels of success but few have broken through to the mainstream.

The newest version of iOS has incorporated mesh networks into its operating system, which allows developers to create applications that take advantage of this technology without having to reinvent the wheel. Beyond messaging applications, mesh networks have the potential to make hard-wired Internet devices obsolete.

Mesh networking has a number of policy implications. Here are a few that TechTank will look out for in the future:

  1. Natural Disasters
  2. Promoting Democracy and Activism
  3. Expanding Connectivity Benefits to Rural Areas

The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance: Part 3

How sustainable are technology-based initiatives? Certainly in some cases they are intended as short-term solutions, such as is the case with post-disaster deployments of GIS platforms like Ushahidi.

But in other instances the ICT initiative must be relied on until the emergence of consolidated statehood. Until states around the developing world have fully functioning agricultural extension services, for example, farmers must rely on programs such as the Grameen Foundation’s Community Knowledge Workers.

It is too soon to say whether digital initiates of this sort have the staying power to serve as long-term alternatives to a fully functioning state exercising proper and accountable administrative capacity. There are also important questions about the scalability of ICT initiatives. Different NGOs and community groups pursue similar initiatives in different areas, and sometimes even in the same community. This creates a patchwork of uncoordinated efforts.

A final concern is found in what might be called governance displacement. To the extent ICT governance initiatives are successful in offering an alternative to a consolidated state, they may sap the motivation to improve state-sector governance capacity.

[Livingston is Professor of Media and International Affairs at The George Washington University]

The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance: Part 2

[Commentary] In this post, I offer examples of the use of technology that at least partially address governance shortfalls in areas of limited statehood.

Put another way, I describe how technologies are used to provide for public goods, such as security, sanitation, drinkable water, and economic opportunity. Where states are consolidated, agricultural extension services, for example, provide farmers with information essential to the important work of feeding families and communities. Where states lack that capacity, NGOs use available technologies to fill the governance void.

For instance, the Grameen Foundation’s Community Knowledge Workers initiative serves more than 176,000 farmers living beyond the reach of state services through a network of more than 1,100 peer advisors. Using mobile technology to connect the advisors with the latest developments and to other farmers, smallholder farmers get accurate, timely information to help them meet their goals. M-Farm in Nairobi similarly provides Kenyan farmers with the latest crop pricing information and other valuable knowledge needed to sustain viable operations. International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations based in Geneva, offers a variety of similar services -- called Trade at Hand -- to farmers around the world.

[Livingston is professor of Media and International Affairs at The George Washington University]

The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance

[Commentary] How do improvements in information and communication technology (ICT) effect governance? Many have studied the role of the Internet in governance by state institutions.

Others have researched how technology changes the way citizens make demands on governments and corporations. A third area concerns the use of technology in countries where the government is weak or altogether missing. In this case technology can fill, if only partially, the governance vacuum created by a fragile state.

[Dr. Steven Livingston is professor of Media and International Affairs at The George Washington University]

Ensuring an Open Internet in a Post-Snowden World

[Commentary] The revelation of NSA surveillance practices sparked a national debate about privacy and security. In a world where much of our communication relies on data gathering mobile technologies, should all of our digital information still be available for private sector collection and government monitoring?

How can we reform digital security and privacy policy to preserve liberty as an American value? Privacy and security are necessary factors in maintaining consumer confidence.

However, the disclosure of NSA monitoring activities eroded global trust in American commitment to protecting privacy and in American companies.

As part of the Obama Administration, I worked on developing the February 2012 White House Blueprint on Consumer Privacy. The Blueprint articulates seven principles for protecting consumer rights in a global digital age: individual control, transparency, respect for the context in which information is provided, security, focused collection, access and accuracy, and accountability. The Blueprint not only strengthens the trust between consumers and businesses on the web, but also symbolizes the American commitment to data privacy in the future.

[Kerry served as General Counsel and Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce]