Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Major media sill against Comcast-Time Warner merger

The New York Times weighs in against the Comcast acquisition of Time Warner today, in an editorial with this link.  

The NYT makes the point that wireless can play video (after all, youtube videos play all right on the iPad – except when Shockwave is encoded) but quickly becomes prohibitively expensive.  But in theory that could be fixed.  The less dependence on hardwired infrastructure, the better.
The Times maintains that Comcast would be in a position to limit consumer access to competitors of NBC-Universal, which would sound like anti-trust-law violation.  The argument also reminds one of previous SEC rules preventing movie distributors from owning theater chains. 

The piece also notes that 64% of American homes have a choice between no more than two land broadband providers.  When I lived in Minneapolis, 1997-2003, Time Warner was the only cable provider.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

FCC punts on fast-lane rules, seeks more public comment

The Federal Communications Commission voted to “punt” today and take public comments for four months before issuing legally binding rules on the extent to which telecommunications providers would be allowed to set up “fast lanes” (or “EZPass lanes, by analogy with commuter turnpikes) for larger companies streaming huge volumes of video.  The benefit for consumers: more films and video become available quickly and conveniently, for those who can pay.  (The convenience might even help solve the piracy problem.)  The downside:  smaller internet companies and startups are at a real disadvantage, an innovation is discouraged in the long run.

The FCC seems to be leaning in the direction of "reclassification", treating broadband Internet service as a utility  There are narrow legal arguments that seem to still give it this authority if it "redefines itself."   
Timothy B.Lee has a summary report at midday Thursday, here

Most media account have emphasized the idea that the FCC is still seriously considering allowing some sort of fast lane for end-user delivery.  Again, that's like allowing toll lanes (as opposed to HOV's) on Interstates near metropolitan areas. 
Apparently, there were some small demonstrations today at FCC, just south if Independence Ave. and the Department of Agriculture in Washington.    

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Comcast "Internet Essentials" criticized as ineffective; other companies have it, too

With all the “fuss” about network neutrality these days, it’s well to note that Comcast offers an “Internet Essentials” program (link here) for low income families, in some areas (like Philadelphia and Washington) when children can qualify for free lunches at school. (It’s not clear if it is available to the childless.)  

The service appears to offer barebones services at low speeds, but social media and email are included.

The Washington Post reports that the service is “under fire” in an article Saturday morning, story by Cecilia Kang, link here. Other companies, like Cox, have similar packages.  

Comcast Xfinity has been running television ads saying that it supports network neutrality.  It would appear that it believes that “fast access” lanes for large content providers (like Netflix) doesn’t violate the basic idea. But the basic problem, even with the most moderate proposals from the FCC, is that new content delivery companies will have trouble competing, and innovation will be stifled.  

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The FCC has the power to change the Internet forever (but it says it doesn't)

Nilay Patel writes in Vox Media "This summer will change the Internet and media forever", with dire analysis of FCC proposals, in the light of recent Supreme Court decisions, to allow content companies like Netflix and Apple (for iTunes) to buy "fast lanes" from telecommunications providers, link here.

Patel discusses the Aereo case and its significance in some detail.  A ruling on Aereo is likely by June, slightly after the FCC announces its fast-lane rules.

My own take on Aereo is that the consumer benefits if it can get all content wirelessly, through the airwaves and without the necessary for a land wire connection.  That guarantees you could still get shows after a cable outage from a storm (I used it a week after the 2012 derecho; I had a generator that restored power immediately).  I thought I would throw that observation in.  I have a small antenna digital TV that gets used whenever there is an outage, but I can't get CNN or many other channels on it.  I could hook up the antenna to the plasma screen if I made the effort.  

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Mozilla floats modified plan of pseudo-net neutrality to protect ordinary websites

Here’s a piece by Roy Fournier in the National Journal, “Net Neutrality’s Death Could Stir Populist Revolt: With echoes of the Gilded Age, Washington coddles moneyed, monopolist Internet barons”, link here

At the same time, the National Journal links to a PDF proposal by Mozilla, “Petition to recognize remote delivery services in terminating access networks and classify such services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Telecommunications Act”, link here. Mozilla wants Title II to apply to the relationship between websites and ISP’s, but not necessarily, in all cases, to the connection between consumers and ISP’s.  So charging major providers like Netflix for very fast lanes would sometimes be acceptable. 
Others say that the Mozilla proposal is a semantic game, and that it is not easier than reclassification of providers.

Some sort of neutrality protection of ordinary websites might be necessary to make shared hosting a viable business, with good customer service for websmasters, going forward.