Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Some cities (esp. in California) want to impose a "streaming tax"

More cities in California are considering adding "streaming" taxes that would, at first, mainly affect Netflix viewers, as explained in this Los Angeles Times story.  Illinois and Pennsylvania also have cities with some similar taxes.

It would seem that the taxes could affect other streaming services, like Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Is it based on hours watched, or simply based on the monthly subscription rate?

I thought it was common for Amazon to charge sales tax on mp3 and digital movie rentals and purchases online as retail events, in some states.

But cities are trying to claim that this is a "utility" tax.

Could "free" websites be affected? 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump could cancel FCC's net neutrality rules, which alarms some in Silicon Valley

“The Switch”, Brian Fung’s technology blog on the Washington Post, has a somewhat alarmist article Friday morning, November 11, 2016, on p. A25, “Obama’s big Internet policies may be at risk; Trump could dismantle net neutrality, among others, analysts say”, link here.  Note the comments by me, and several by "Imscavo", especially about access to porn sites and link to an article about download speeds from Netflix in early 2014, here. I had a slowdown in my (Xfinity) access to Netflix and Amazon videos in late 2015, which improved this spring.

Particularly alarming are statements in the article, “it is Illegal for Internet providers such as Comcast and ATT to put up barriers to the websites consumers want to reach… And they cannot demand special payments from website operators just so that the sites’ content can reach Internet users.”

That would, taken literally, seem to threaten me, probably not on “free services” like Blogger and YouTube, but on hosted domains.

However, as Wikipedia explains  most of Obama’s “legacy” came into being in early 2015 when the FCC classified broadband and cable or optical providers as “common carriers” like phone companies.

The Los Angeles Times has a more temperate account, by Jim Puzzanghera of what the new administration and Congress would do with net neutrality, here.    Republicans don't object to some rules, like blocking legal content, but don't think telecomm companies should be viewed as telephone companies.  As a practical matter, it wouldn't make a lot of sense for a telecomm provider suddenly to charge small publishers to allow connections, simply because they would have less to offer customers (unless they were settling up special child-friendly networks for families with children, for example, or special networks for certain kinds of businesses).

In all the years since I first had my own domains (1997) I never had an issue with any restriction of access to any of my sites.

Trump would presumably have the power to cancel FCC regulations like this the day he took office.

There is an arguable benefit to the public in allowing carriers to offer fast tracks for extremely high volume providers – in that telecom companies might have more incentive to up data limits (especially in wireless) and improve stability and speed.  But that could provide a barrier to entry, not so much for content publishers as for new kinds of intermediary service providers or new app developers.

This whole topic will deserve further commentary, on my Wordpress blogs. My own feeling is that there is more potential threat to Internet publishers in the Section 230 area than anything else.