over the top services

Will the FCC Force Television Online Even If Aereo Loses in Court?

Posted by | Video | No Comments

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a case that will decide whether Aereo, an over-the-top video distributor, can retransmit broadcast television signals online without obtaining a copyright license. If the court rules in Aereo’s favor, national programming networks might stop distributing their programming for free over the air, and without prime time programming, local TV stations might go out of business across the country. It’s a make or break case for Aereo, but for broadcasters, it represents only one piece of a broader regulatory puzzle regarding the future of over-the-air television.

If the court rules in favor of the broadcasters, they could still lose at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). At a National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) event earlier this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler focused on “the opportunity for broadcast licensees in the 21st century . . . to provide over-the-top services.” According to Chairman Wheeler, TV stations shouldn’t limit themselves to being in the “television” business, because their “business horizons are greater than [their] current product.” Wheeler wants TV stations to become over-the-top “information providers”, and he sees the FCC’s role as helping them redefine themselves as a “growing source of competition” in that market segment. Read More

Will Europe Regulate Over the Top Services on the Mobile Internet?

Posted by | International, Wireless | One Comment

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, I was surprised that nobody had access to 4G mobile Internet services. How could Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain and host to the “world’s premier mobile industry event,” lack access to 4G? In the opening day keynote session, Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s CEO, said Europe has only 6% of the world’s LTE connections, and Telefónica’s CEO, César Alierta, said only 17% of European mobile subscribers have smartphones. European mobile operators agreed they are lagging the world in 4G deployment and penetration due to existing price regulations that discourage new infrastructure investments.

Europe now stands at a crossroads: Does it adopt the modern, investment-based approach toward wireless markets that made the US the world’s 4G leader, or does it further increase regulation and impose new obligations on “over the top” (e.g., Skype) services? Our history with the regulation of rural telephone companies demonstrates the perils of the second option. Yet European mobile operators appear ready to embrace new regulations as a means to enhance their business and create a “balanced relationship” with “US companies” that provide over the top (OTT) services. Read More

What Does Netflix’s Decision to Block Content Tell Us About Innovation and Investment in Internet Infrastructure?

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Video | One Comment

The Netflix debate tells us there is a yawning gap between the reality of current network architecture and the outdated theories supporting our regulatory policies. This gap is the single biggest threat to the virtuous cycle of invention, investment, and growth that have characterized the Internet over the last decade.

I’m having my own case of Cassandrafreude after reading the responses to my posts on Netflix’s decision to block consumer access to its new Super HD service. One commenter says it is a “great thing” that Netflix is relieving Internet congestion (a tacit admission that Internet congestion actually exists) by deploying computing power inside ISP networks. Another commenter suggests Netflix is attempting to “vertically integrate (from just content provider to content provider + CDN)” because “existing CDNs may not be equipped to handle the new traffic Netflix wants to push over them.”

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Netflix Blocking Internet Access to HD Movies

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Video | 26 Comments

“Unfortunately, most consumers won’t realize that Netflix is trying to impose its costs on all Internet consumers to gain an anticompetitive price advantage against its over-the-top competitors.”

At the Consumer Electronic Show two weeks ago, Netflix announced that it would block consumer access to high definition and 3D movies in its new “Super HD” (HD) service for customers of Internet service providers (ISPs) that Netflix disfavors. Netflix’s goal is to coerce ISPs into paying for a free Internet fast lane for Netflix content. If Netflix succeeds, it would harm Internet consumers and competition among video streaming providers. It would also fundamentally alter the economics and openness of the Internet, “where consumers make their own choices about what applications and services to use and are free to decide what content they want to access, create, or share with others.”

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