Tag Archives: FCC

Defend Net Neutrality

For various reasons, it has been a very taxing day. So I give you this video from someone on YouTube, explaining the importance of Net Neutrality. Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Additional reading:

Killing Net Neutrality Till It’s Even More Dead

(Courtesy: Flickr user Steve Rhodes, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, from The Nation blog)

(Courtesy: Flickr user Steve Rhodes, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, from The Nation blog)

Not long ago, the Supreme Court struck down net neutrality laws that said you couldn’t impede data from one provider being transmitted to the customer by another. At first, major players like Netflix were vocal about resisting the inevitable wave of profiteering from ISPs, but they soon went back on their commitment to a free and open internet. In particular, Netflix agreed to pay Comcast to make sure its data – your streaming movies – kept moving quickly on the information superhighway.

Now, it looks like the FCC’s going to sanction this kind of arrangement as the way forward for the internet.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s President just signed an Internet Bill of Rights into law.

Go U.S.A.

Also of interest:

  • Netflix’s blog on why pay-for-play is bad. (I’d have a lot more faith in them if they hadn’t said they’d fight tooth and nail against degredation of Net Neutrality post-SCOTUS case, then turned around to fork cash to Comcast, but hey, apparently we consumers have to take what we can get these days.)

Why I Gave Up On @Aereo

imagesOld-TVI’m a big proponent of trying new technologies, particularly where television is concerned. I have a Hulu Plus account, a sub-account on Netflix, and the minute I found out about Aereo, I signed up for a subscription. But I don’t have it any more, because it was unreliable and when I tried to approach Aereo about getting some kind of consideration for that fact, I was completely dissatisfied with their response.

Aereo, for those who don’t know, is a product that allows you to get an aerial television signal through your computer. And DVR the broadcast shows that you want to save and watch for later. Sounds awesome, right? And it was, for the first month or two, but then shows I tried to watch live started hanging up/lagging. Dramatically. So did the shows I had DVR’d. Speed tests on my Time Warner cable line actually revealed that the speeds were perfectly in line with my internet subscription (shocker!) and should have been enough to support the highest quality video, let alone the lowest-bandwidth video quality, which by that point was all I was using (in an attempt to avoid lags). (Note: no idea if this is still the case, thanks to the courts gutting Net Neutrality and the FCC recently indicating that pay-for-play is going to be the wave of the internet’s future.)

So I went to the company and asked what was going on. Could they fix it? Since we rapidly determined they couldn’t, were they willing to refund the rest of my subscription month? I certainly wasn’t happy to pay for a service that didn’t work, even if it did let me watch SCANDAL in real time with the rest of Twitter.

But no. They weren’t willing to refund the month that it hadn’t been working. They weren’t even willing to refund the remainder of the billing month pro-rata. They offered a $2 credit, which for the several hours I had spent trying to fix the problem was laughable, particularly given that I had to reiterate my problem with every email and correct multiple incorrect assumptions on the part of their “service” staff. In fact, although they had been billing me steadily, they said that my account had expired (which they later retracted).

To add insult to injury, even though Aereo uses broadcast signals to obtain your content, it limits your ability to access that content outside of your home area. In other words, if I DVR something in New York City, I can’t play it when I travel to another part of the state, let alone another part of the country, even though if I had a TV I’d be able to access these nationally-broadcast programs no matter where I went. At the time of my subscription, this wasn’t made clear before subscribing, though they may have changed this in the months since I left the service.

As much as I approve of alternatives to expensive cable contracts, I don’t approve of companies who take consumer’s money without delivering as promised. I was willing to support Aereo as an emerging technology, early on, because (at least until the FCC kills net neutrality even deader than it appears to be at the moment) we need alternatives to costly cable packages that deliver a minimum of engaging programs.

But if your product doesn’t work as advertised, and you’re dismissing customer concerns and unwilling to negotiate equitable payback for under-performance (or lack of performance), I’m going to stop supporting it. Fast. And let my friends know not to bother, too.

So while Aereo is currently garnering headlines (not to mention Supreme Court cases) and becoming something more people consider purchasing, it’s not a service I can recommend. Having spoken to a couple people about their plans to subscribe, I realized that not everyone is aware of the abysmal customer “service” they offer, and wanted to put this out there for public consumption: unless (and until) their customer service and quality of service improve, I really don’t think this company is the one to follow where this innovation is concerned.

 

Other links of interest:

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/the-cloud-industry-needs-aereo-to-win-but-consumers-need-something-better/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

 

Edit: This morning (4/25/14) I woke up to an email from Chris McKay, Director of Customer Care & Billing for Aereo, Inc. Chris has offered to refund the full month’s fee for my final month of Aereo service, which I’ve accepted, so now it is just a matter of waiting for the refund to hit my account. I appreciate his reaching out and being interested in resolving the situation.

Netflix, Comcast and Pay-for-Play in a Post-Net-Neutrality World

CaptureA few weeks ago, the courts struck down Net Neutrality, which forbade internet providers from throttling information coming from competing services in the interest of a free and open internet. People were, quite rightly, upset. As part of the overall response to the news, one beacon of hope shone out – Netflix issued a statement saying that they were committed to keeping their not-unconsiderable-clout-bearing eye on things. The impression their craftily-worded statement gave was that this company, who had gained so much from Net Neutrality over the years, was on the side of the American public and an internet where information was allowed to roam free. Here’s the relevant quote from that statement, issued in late January 2014:

“Unfortunately, Verizon successfully challenged the U.S. net neutrality rules. In principle, a domestic ISP now can legally impede the video streams that members request from Netflix, degrading the experience we jointly provide. The motivation could be to get Netflix to pay fees to stop this degradation. Were this draconian scenario to unfold with some ISP, we would vigorously protest and encourage our members to demand the open Internet they are paying their ISP to deliver.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/netflix-net-neutrality-statement-2014-1#ixzz2uBpzqdyY

This week, however, Netflix announced that they’re going to be paying Comcast to keep their data from being throttled – an about-face of pretty impressive proportions. In other words, they flipped the public the bird and dug into their coffers to keep their information flowing, rather than stick to the idea that a company shouldn’t be able to cut off their competitor’s information just because the competitor didn’t lay the fiberoptic cable that their data travels along.

I know. I shouldn’t expect more from major media companies when it comes to turning a profit over upholding ideals. I fell for Netflix’s PR stunt, and that was stupid. And now I’m angry.

Netflix has effectively thrown a wad of cash at the bigger issue here – and, one can only assume, will be abandoning the larger issue of ethics around an internet provider throttling the data their users get from other sources.

I think of Netflix’s move as something akin to paying of the troll who lives under a bridge. “Don’t eat me!” you shout, hefting a sack of gold coins at the monster so it will leave you alone – and setting up an expectation that it will be able to extort cash from future travelers (or, in this case, companies). The move is on par with negotiating with terrorists – Comcast apparently had Netflix over a barrel, and rather than raise the considerable clout of their millions of subscribers (as their original statement seemed to indicate would be their preference), Netflix reached into their deep pockets, pulled out some Benjamins, and made it rain in the land of Comcast.

I can already hear people asking, so what? Well, here’s so what: Netflix may have deep pockets, and Hulu may be owned by NBC Universal, but what about the burdgeoning media companies who don’t have mile-deep bank accounts lined with cold hard cash? How are they going to compete in a marketplace where it’s now established that charging for the privilege of disseminating information is a reasonable practice?

And what about when we stop talking about straight-up entertainment? What about when it isn’t House of Cards that you have to pay to play, but citizen journalism from the middle east, or news of oil spills and water contamination in your own back yard? The information available online has been a boon to the average citizen, whose negotiation of a capitalist landscape is void of the transparent honesty required of vendors in order for them to be able to compete fairly. Without wanting to rush off a cliff in a tinfoil hat, when traditional media flat-out refuses to cover stories that indict the power structure, and alternative media is the only way for marginalized stories to spread, how would it affect our ability to know what’s going on in the world if the only efficiently-delivered journalism is what comes down the fiberoptic cables from FOX, MSNBC, CNN and other clearly deficient players?

By paying Comcast to permit them unfettered access to free-flowing information conduits, Netflix has set a terrible precedent. The action almost demands that Comcast now move to demanding similar payments from other media-banks, and in the process will further lessen the availability of quality information to the American public.

While the courts are to blame for striking down Net Neutrality and the FCC is to blame for the uncertain wording that let that happen, make no mistake – Netflix has just opened the door to pay-for-play on a scale that boggles the mind. So thanks for that, Netflix – good to know where you really stand on the issue of free and open access to information.

Not to mention protection money.

 

Read more on this topic:

  1. Netflix Agrees to Pay Comcast for Access to its Broadband Network
  2. Comcast Deal with Netflix Makes Net Neutrality Obsolete
  3. F.C.C. Seeks a New Path on Net Neutrality Rules