Thursday, May 29, 2014

Aereo, ABC and Parcel Data

In late April the Supreme Court heard arguments on if Aereo, a company with thousands of small (tiny actually) digital antennas, could collect programs broadcasted over the air, package them and distribute the freely collected information over the internet, for a price.  The data is compiled onto cloud storage and can be consumed for a price on any screen. 

Several news articles called this a disruptive business model  ( The issue at hand was could Aereo take the freely broadcasted signals and sell them through cloud services.  The problem being that ABC and other broadcasters sell those same signals to cable and dish networks for a fairly significant amount.

In my opinion there are many elements of this case that are similar to parcel data, of course.  Many states and counties and cities produce parcel data for their internal use and then “broadcast” or provide the data freely.  As we have seen time and time again, commercial vendors assemble that free data, repackage it, and sell it.

Most recently for example, a firm sent out a notice that users could purchase high-resolution aerial photography for southeastern Ohio (  This is the part of Ohio with the Utica Oil Shale fracking activities.  But this very same product is freely available through the State of Ohio OGROP program

So why is capturing freely broadcast programming and reselling it disruptive and taking freely available GIS data and reselling it not disruptive?  Maybe neither are disruptive, maybe it’s just the American free market. 

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