Greg Cooper is director of product development at Lean Software Services in Toronto.
The CRTC is battling the television providers on our behalf. But how much time and energy do we spend forcing them to provide affordable cable television at a time when we should be answering more fundamental questions about how we watch content today?
I do still have a basic cable subscription, purely so I can watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on my TV.
But I also sometimes like to watch old episodes of Firefly using Netflix on my tablet, and displaying it on my TV through Google Chromecast. A little complicated, but nothing I can't master.
Before I broke down and bought an overpriced HBO subscription, I used to watch John Oliver's Last Week Tonight segments on YouTube and I could use the same tablet and Chromecast gadget to do that. Easy peasy.
I used to watch Doctor Who on plain old cable. But I couldn't justify the cost of a subscription that included the Space channel, so I cut it back after making sure I could watch Doctor Who on the website.
But hmm … the website didn't work on my tablet.
So I found a VGA connector so I could hook up my laptop to my TV.
Hmm again … VGA doesn't carry sound and my laptop speaker isn't very loud. A short trip and $20 later, I have some cheap speakers.
Now, every time a new Doctor Who episode comes out, I carry my laptop downstairs and do a bit of wiring. It works just fine, with the exception of the occasional connection issue.
For soccer, I still use cable. That is, assuming the game is carried by one of the sports channels included in my limited subscription.
But since soccer games can be carried by any of six different channels and I only get three of them, my chances are about 50/50 for any given match.
There is a soccer video highlight app for Android that I can download. Every problem is an opportunity to try yet more technology.
The app doesn't work on my tablet, but it does on my phone. So I spend a fair bit of time watching soccer highlights on my phone.
My wife shakes her head every time she sees me watching the very tiny players kicking a very, very tiny ball around its screen.
Is this really how we want the future to look?
At some point in the near future, all video content will be delivered over the Internet.
It's time for consumers and our advocates to stand up and tell the content providers that they have to address this complexity and make something that really works.
As you have surely guessed by now, I am a computer geek. I really wonder how people who aren't geeks manage this morass of technology.
Setting up a perfect video system that covers all of my needs would be an undertaking that I can envision but would never have time to complete.
And it would have to be updated constantly, because the technology keeps changing.
It really shouldn't be that hard to set up a video-content-delivery application that covers all of your in-home and mobile-video-content needs.
The solution is actually fairly simple.
It relies on the separation of the video-content industry into distinct roles and the adoption of industry standards to allow the technologies to communicate with one another.
The three main roles are content generation, content distribution and content playback.
Standards would allow any playback technology to display video from any distributor.
This would mean you could have just one playback app on one device connected to your home TV, allowing you to watch content from any distributor.
But it wouldn't make sense to stop there.
If the standard is properly defined, it would allow the user of the playback application to browse the video libraries of multiple distributors, purchase video content from any distributor, choose between advertiser-funded and user-paid services and so on.
While we're building a standard for communication between playback technologies and distribution technologies, we should also identify any technological barriers between sharing content from generators to distributors and create appropriate standards for these.
And since we're creating standards to make our lives better, we can take one more step and come up with a standard to allow the video-playback application to display data from third-party information providers.
The most obvious use would be to make third-party reviews of the video content available to the consumer when they are browsing a library.
But if defined properly, it could also be used for quite a few other purposes – providing interesting information about the filming or the stars or the director, background on the history behind the story, parental evaluations of appropriate age levels and so on.
Proper standards encourage competition, not limit it – and, more important, they make our lives easier and more enjoyable.