Tag Archives: net neutrality

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.)

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

How HuluPlus and SyFy Lost Helix a Viewer

I don’t own a TV. I get my fix from internet TV providers – HuluPlus, some network sites, and until recently, Aereo.

Yesterday, in an effort to while away a couple hours, I tried pulling up the latest episodes of HELIX, a SyFy original show about some kind of contagion at the North Pole. I’d seen the first few episodes and it looked pretty cool, plus I follow/occasionally tweet with one of the guys responsible for making it.

I went to the Hulu page for HELIX and loaded it up, and added episodes four and five – which aired in January – to my queue.

Imagine my surprise when, instead of an opening commercial (because yes, even when you pay for HuluPlus, you get commercials) I got this:

image

I sent a couple annoyed tweets to both Hulu and SyFy, but figured I’d give it a day to resolve. So I went back this morning, clicked, and got…

image

Um.

A few problems with this.

1) Feb 6 is hardly “immediately after broadcast” for an episode that aired on 1/24.

2) The biggest selling point for using HuluPlus is that you can access shows the day after they air. Here we are almost two weeks later and episode 4 isn’t available yet? So I’m paying a monthly fee to access hundreds of hours of Korean soap operas and still have commercials in between acts, now? Er, no.

3) Why the HELL would Hulu Plus let me put this and a subsequent episode into my queue when they’re not available for viewing?

I could go on. But essentially this is some kind of bait-and-switch bullshit. I don’t subscribe to a cable provider because I watch my TV online. If I have to link a cable account to my already-fee-based Hulu Plus account, you know what suddenly becomes a lot less attractive? Paying for Hulu Plus.

Up to now I’ve been a defender of Hulu Plus, but with this kind of development I’m seriously considering cancelling.

This problem isn’t happening in a vacuum. If everyone will think back a week or two ago, you’ll remember the courts striking down net neutrality. You remember net neutrality, it was that thing that said that the companies that own the infrastructure of the Internet couldn’t slow down information sent from their competitors. You’d have to be an idiot not to see the connection between that ruling and the sudden lack of availability of quality programming via previously available channels (particulary in the case of Aereo, which suddenly started buffering every two seconds despite speed tests showing 10-14MBps download speeds and the lowest possible playback quality),.

Either way, I’m not wasting anymore time trying to get access. This is sad, because HELIX seems cool and I know these shows live or die depending on their audience numbers, but I’d rather watch independent web series or something on Netflix then have to keep checking back and being disappointed. If it makes the whole season and that goes to Netflix, maybe I’ll be able to watch it then. In the meantime, it’s time to seriously reconsider my subscription to HuluPlus and consider going with the unpaid version of the site: I may have to wait a week to see new episodes of shows I like, but at I’ll still be able to see them, and it won’t cost me 10 bucks a month.

While I hate to reward bad behavior, it may be that this sounds the death knell on my dedication to watching TV via the Internet. Then again, given that my alternative is Time Warner Cable, maybe it’s simply time to get out more.