Some of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley made the trek up to Capitol Hill this morning to tell the members of the House subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet about what they're doing with cutting-edge technology and where they see the future.
The hearing was a fifth in a series on the Digital Future of the United States, this one dealing with the future of video. Among the witnesses called to testify were YouTube CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley, Sling Media Chairman and CEO Blake Krikorian and HDNet co-founder Mark Cuban. Others were Tom Rogers of TiVo, Bejamine Pyne with Disney and ESPN Networks, Gina Lombardi, president of MediaFLO USA and Phil Rosenthal, the creator of TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond" and spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild.
Cuban took the opportunity to talk about the limitations of the most popular means of distributing broadband to consumers - Cable and DSL - and how, under these conditions, video will not be able to broadcast over the Web the way live TV broadcasts over the air. Rosenthal talked about the effect that digital video recorders such as TiVo - by allowing viewers to skip commercials - have had on television. As part of agreements with advertisers, TV shows, he said, are being forced by their networks to integrate specific products into the storylines. At the hearing, Rosenthal showed a clip from a "7th Heaven" on the CW network in which a child on the show says Oreo cookies are her favorite. Krikorian's Sling Box, he said, allows users to watch their "home" television on a laptop or mobile phone from anywhere in the world where the Internet is available. To illustrate, he held up a Sprint-powered Treo Smartphone and showed a "live" broadcast of Good Morning America that was playing on his home TV set back in California.
Hurley - who was called "a historic figure" by subcommittee chair Edward J. Markey - made his inaugural appearance before Congress to share stories of how You Tube is changing the way people communicate with each other. "It's my first appearance in front of a Congressional committee and I hope I don't mess up because if I do, it will end up on You Tube," he said in his opening remarks.
In the last two months, the subcommittee has held informational hearings as a way of educating key members of Congress on the developments in Silicon Valley and the impact they're having on different markets. As tech issues continue to take center stage on Capitol Hill -- from the controversy over Net Neutrality (remember Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and his "series of tubes" remarks?) to the new competitive forces of HD radio and Internet radio cited in the XM-Sirius merger discussions --understanding cutting-edge technology is becoming more important for members of Congress.
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