- Published: 16 March 2015 16 March 2015
NY Times, WSJ, WP: You need to make offers to Stacey at staceyhigginbotham dot com, Kevin Fitchard at gigaom.com (or via me if that email is shut down.) In the day, Om Malik and Saul Hansall (NYT) were the only reporters who consistently beat me to major broadband stories. Soon after Gigaom began, Saul was disappointed. We expected Gigaom would do well and now Saul would never have the chance to hire Om for the Times. To a large extent, Best Bits in the Times was based on what Gigaom was doing.
"Just watch. Stacey is going to be incredible," Om said to me when he hired her. He was right. Kevin Fitchard was in a tough spot just before Stacey & Om hired him, virtually singlehandedly trying to report every story in the business as Telephony dropped almost all the reporters. He remained productive at Gigaom while dramatically upping his game.
Whether it was simply because he had the time to do the work or Om's mentorship, Kevin soon began finding original stories time after time.
Gautham Nagesh has raised the quality of WSJ telecom reporting, including seeing through the obfuscation about the "edge charge" loophole. That one story turned around the Neutrality debate. Nearly all the other reporters bought the spin that charging at the edge of the network didn't matter "for technical reasons." Washington Post now has three aggressive young reporters chasing (and finding) tech stories, far better than the stenographers they previously had on the beat. But neither has any telecom reporters that can match the reporting at Gigaom.
The Times telecom reporting isn't close to what it was in Saul Hansell's day.
Here's one where Om and I jumped in followed by notes from Om and Stacey about their disappointment.
In the 2007 AT&T-BellSouth merger rules, there was nothing that prevented AT&T from squeezing content producers, we both wrote when we saw the terms. Susan Crawford, David Isenberg and others jumped in to support us. Tim Wu, who had backed up the D.C. public interest groups, thought it was a reasonable risk to take. AT&T's uber-lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, had clearly said "If they bring us a 3 megabit video stream at our peering point, we will deliver it to our customer at 3 megabits if the customer has a 3 megabit plan." Tom Tauke of Verizon gave the same answer at a public press conference.
Two years later, I sent a note to Om, Susan, David and Tim that Tim was right - AT&T didn't take advantage. Tim graciously replied, "We don't know that yet," to which I responded that the merger conditions had now ended.
In 2013, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast went back on that pledge, throttling Netflix and others if they didn't pay up. That blew up the neutrality debate and led to the recent decision.
Back in 2007, Om saw the problem very clearly.
From my note "Tim has proven right and that the AT&T/BellSouth net neutrality conditions were sufficient to prevent problems. I doubt anyone cares, but I'm throwing in this correction anyway. I make mistakes and Microsoft delivers software late. (draft)
Two years ago, I wrote a strong piece that the AT&T-BellSouth merger conditions had a huge hole. AT&T could bypass the “net neutrality” requirements by limiting the reliable speeds of their DSL network and forcing TV over the net to pay to be on their IPTV network. Tim Wu strongly disagreed, believing that for political reasons AT&T wouldn’t do that. Tim was right.
AT&T has maintained the quality of their DSL backhaul so that video is rarely degraded. They haven’t even made a commercial offer for content delivery over their IPTV network; no one would buy it given the regular Internet is working so well. I don’t know whether that’s politics, as Tim projected, or simply that Microsoft’s IPTV software doesn’t work that well yet.
In either case, vigilance remains necessary. Randall Stephenson, now AT&T CEO, several years ago told Wall Street he intended to collect from any TV over the net. I came to the dispute when Thursday December 28, 2006 AT&T released proposals with loopholes big enough to reverse everything they were promising. ...
What I didn’t know is that what looked like an AT&T power move had been carefully negotiated with D.C. activists, and the vote was a foregone conclusion the day before. The activists believed that AT&T concessions in principle were crucial and decided to go along. I saw the technical details meant there was no substance to AT&T’s commitments. The D.C. folks - most good friends - were inside the FCC veil of secrecy. They believed they had a good compromise, because AT&T wouldn’t take advantage of the loophole.
I’m very glad they were right"
Gigaom is winding down and its assets are now controlled by the company’s lenders. It is not how you want the story of a company you founded to end.
Every founder starts on a path — hopeful and optimistic, full of desire to build something that helps change the world for the better, reshape an industry and hopefully become independent, both metaphorically and financially. Business, much like life, is not a movie and not everyone gets to have a story book ending.
There will be time for postmortems, but not today. Today, I want to thank all the people who make (and have helped make) Gigaom. Their role in this journey was what really made it all worth it. They are great people and they will all do great work wherever they go. I want to thank our investors who believed in the business long before it became fashionable. And most importantly, I want to thank you dear readers for coming along on this trip of a lifetime.
I might have left Gigaom, the company, over a year ago, but Gigaom, the idea still lives in my heart.
Goodnight sweetheart, I still love you!