Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aereo loses in the Supreme Court


The Supreme Court has ruled against Aereo, saying that to offer its service to consumers, it can be expected to pay license fees in a manner similar to cable companies.  This reversed a finding in the Second Circuit.  The ruling went 6-3.  A typical news story on Techcrunch is here.

The case is American Broadcasting Company v. Aereo, and the slip opinion is here

Vox has a summary of the opinion here.
  
Despite initial speculation that Aereo would close, the company seems ready to fight, and has posted a blog post (at least as of 6/26) in response to the ruling, here. The company insists consumers have a right to pick up broadcasts from antennae over airwaves.

The Court rejected Aereo's arguments that its antenna mechanism turned public performances, regulated by copyright law, into private instances.  
    
The Court says that the concern here is the covered or indirect transmission of copyrighted works or performances, and that there is no inference to be made on how cloud computing could be affected.  But Ezra Klein, of Vox, is saying that "trust us" won't cut it with entrepreneurs and investors.  I personally don't see the connection between Cloud services and Aereo, but I do wonder about YouTube embeds.


More details on the road ahead are forthcoming. I think that in some markets, an Aereo-type service can make sense even if the Aereo-like company has to pay licensing, if it can deliver all channels to the consumer without a physical hookup.  In that sense, it becomes like satellite service, but the little antenna sounds a lot easier to deal with than a dish.  It's desirable for consumers to be able to get as many cable channels as possible (even if not HD) without a physical land connection, to get service after storms or other outages.  Maybe consumers would pay for this, even if licensing were passed on to them.    Some observers note that most major networks charge for new episodes online (or require cable signon) but offer older episodes free; Hulu tries to offer new episodes, however.  


Monday, June 16, 2014

Dispel the myths about net neutrality!


The Washington Post, on p B2 of the Outlook Section Sunday June 15, 2014, ran a perspective by Nancy Scola, “5 Myths About Net Neutrality”, link here.  Here are some points:  The Internet was born out of a heavily regulated telephone network, along with enterprising defense-related work in the 60s and 70s;  the Internet would not fall apart if it allows paid “Ezpass” toll lanes, but smaller startups could be at a serious disadvantage over time; Network neutrality rules would not hinder wired broadband or even better cellular wireless;  the neutrality concept has largely been a grass roots movement; and neutrality is not necessarily just an on-off matter. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Opposing viewpoint: the case for keeping landlines, and the tricky FCC self-classification problems


Jon Brodkin has a detailed op-ed (“When the Landline Is a Lifeline” about the landline v. WiFi debate on p A23 of the New York Times today Thursday, June 5, 2014, p. A23, link here
      
Brodkin offers arguments that in remote areas, conventional landlines (or fiber-optic) can turn out to be reliable, especially for contacting emergency services, than cellular services and Internet phone.  He talks about prolonged power outages.  True, conventional phone lines don’t depend on the same power source, but physical destruction (and falling trees) can bring down conventional lines, too. And remember the plot lines of most “noir” mystery movies predicated on rural murders: cut the phone lines first.  Wireless service has the advantage that it can’t be attacked at the location of a particular residential target.  (Along these lines, it’s better if home security systems are connected to central monitoring by cellular wireless than land lines.)
    
He mentions that the FCC, in the tangential but different issue of net neutrality, still hasn’t come around to reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications, rather than information service (the latter is what really matters the most to me in practice).  He also discusses compatibility problems (in connection to fax or to emergency services) of some VoIP and Voice Link.
   
When I returned to Virginia in 2003, I found my mother had gone to ATT for her land service for a better rate.  I got cable and high speed Internet quickly, then on separate lines.  In February 2005, a freak storm caused a neighbor’s tree limb to bring down the landline but not the cable line.  It took three days to get the landline back up because ATT had to go through cumbersome channels with Verizon.
    
Comcast Xfinity usually encourages customers to switch landline to digital voice, which makes landline service more vulnerable to cable service outages than they were before, when stand alone.   



Wednesday, June 04, 2014

We should be able to get everything at some level of service by cellular wireless


Here's a brief thought about land hardwired broadband availability.  I understand that's important, but it has to be hard to keep it maintained in remote areas susceptible to storms and the elements.

I think that consumers are perhaps as well served if cellular wireless is even more powerful, so that video usage can be reasonably priced.  Furthermore, I think that it's desirable that all major channels (including especially CNN) are available through digital broadcast airwaves and don't depend on a hardwired land connection.