Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Scheduling a late afternoon ophthalmologist appointment and then beginning to type on a screen that looks illegible is a self-inflicted wound.

And yet, here I am. Albeit delayed.

Speaking of vision, let’s talk about Vision.

When I officially began my Disney+ ($DIS) subscription last month, I hadn’t planned to watch “WandaVision.”

Of all the characters thrown my way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the relationship between The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) and Vision wasn’t what I expected to be monitoring heading into Valentine’s Day weekend.

But credit to the showrunners and the superb acting range of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, I endorse it.

The IMDb ratings of 9.0 and 9.3 for episodes four and five are well-earned. Link

In the United States, and maybe beyond, there is a growing moat between the two leaders of Netflix ($NFLX) and Disney+ and the rest:

Companies that used to be the giants of entertainment now find themselves too small. Those concerns have already prompted a wave of consolidation. Rupert Murdoch bailed out of Hollywood two years ago, selling most of 21st Century Fox to Disney, while Time Warner sold to AT&T ($T), and Viacom merged with CBS ($VIAC).

NBCU ($CMCSA) and WarnerMedia are roughly equal in size. Each generated close to $30 billion in revenue last year. Each owns a major film and TV studio and a portfolio of cable channels including news channels. Combining the two companies would produce a giant with total revenues about the same as those of Disney, which had $65 billion in revenue in its fiscal 2020 year. Such a deal would also likely draw scrutiny from antitrust authorities.

WarnerMedia has its own issues which could make its parent, AT&T, open to a deal. The telecom giant is under enormous financial pressure to reduce its heavy debt load while investing billions on new cellular spectrum for 5G services. If WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service doesn’t take off, AT&T may want to partner with a firm like NBCU to get the benefits of scale. WarnerMedia declined to comment. Link

I took no part in last month’s GameStop ($GME) fiasco.

But if you told mean I could do something that might peripherally help to take down the legacy regional broadband providers that acquired media properties to stay relevant without innovating internally or externally servicing its customers, then I’d at least listen to the proposition.

Enter SpaceX’s Starlink:

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday repeated his prediction that the company’s satellite internet service, Starlink, would go public once its cash flow is predictable.

In a series of tweets, the billionaire said: “Once we can predict cash flow reasonably well, Starlink will IPO.” This would open Starlink to public investment.

Starlink is still in beta. It launched the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test in October, and it now has more than 10,000 users worldwide. Industry specialists told [Business] Insider’s Dave Mosher in December that SpaceX could need about three years and 3 million subscribers to get the project to begin paying for itself — but only if it lowers costs and improves its tech. Link

Better than nothing is how I’d describe most of my past wireless experiences.

Speaking of wireless:

While the Starlink beta only includes broadband, SpaceX said it will eventually sell VoIP service that includes “(a) voice-grade access to the public switched telephone network (‘PSTN’) or its functional equivalent; (b) minutes of use for local service provided at no additional charge to end users; © access to emergency services; and (d) toll limitation services to qualifying low-income consumers.”

Voice service will be sold “on a standalone basis at rates that are reasonably comparable to urban rates,” SpaceX said. The plan isn’t finalized, but SpaceX said it is exploring the use of “a white-label managed service provider (MSP) voice platform.”

In this baseline plan, Starlink Services would provide telephone services connecting consumers to its MSP’s platform using its network capacity, which is available to consumers through their customer premises equipment,” the filing said. “Consumers will have the option of using a third-party, conventional phone connected to a Session Initiation Protocol standards-compliant analog terminal adaptor or a native-IP phone selected from a list of certified models.”

SpaceX said it is also exploring other phone-service options:

Starlink Services continues to assess integrating alternative standalone voice applications into the Starlink network, including other third-party providers, or possibly developing its own proprietary solution. The company may adopt such approaches in the event that further testing demonstrates alternative solutions would provide a superior experience to the end customer or, if Starlink Services determines the end user would benefit from the existence of multiple voice solutions to introduce competition and redundancy into the supply chain. Link

It’s no surprise that SpaceX’s next nemesis may not be a recently retired Jeff Bezos at Blue Origin, but a new batch of Washington lobbyists:

More broadband-industry groups are lining up against SpaceX’s bid to get nearly $900 million in Federal Communications Commission funding. Two groups representing fiber and rural Internet providers yesterday submitted a report to the FCC claiming that Starlink will hit a capacity shortfall in 2028, when the satellite service may be required to hit a major FCC deployment deadline.

The study was commissioned by the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. They are urging the FCC to carefully examine whether SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service should receive money from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which recently awarded SpaceX $885.51 million over 10 years to bring Starlink to 642,925 homes and businesses in 35 states. The funding for SpaceX and other ISPs won’t be finalized until the FCC reviews their long-form applications, which were submitted after the reverse auction. Link

I do not have direct experience using Starlink.

If somehow Starlink decides to wage battle in the United States’ largest city, I may seriously consider it.

Then again, there’s no guarantee that Internet service from the sky will beat out Internet service from the ground.

Cue Alphabet’s ($GOOGL) Loon:

The interesting thing is how far Loon got before Alphabet pulled the plug. When Teller first heard the idea, he says, he gave it about a 1 or 2 percent chance of succeeding. By the time of its launch in 2013 — which I traveled to New Zealand to attend, following some of its first internet-bearing balloons — it had gotten to around 10 percent. By the 2018 graduation, Teller thought it was 50–50.

But in the last six months, the odds reset, like some grim-reaper-ish version of the New York Times needle. Loon had two challenges: the technological leap to deliver internet by balloon, and making the business case that people would pay for it. While the tech side was solving problems, the commercial environment became less favorable. In the last decade, much of the underserved world became connected — internet availability rose from 75 percent of the world to 93 percent. The remaining areas are primarily populated by those who can’t afford the 4G phones that receive Loon signals, or aren’t convinced that the internet — which in some cases has little content in their own language — was worth the effort. Teller came to realize that Loon was unlikely to ever contribute to Alphabet’s profits. And so the bet was lost. Link

Loon is dead. Long live Starlink!

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