For Google and Hollywood, a tangled web of neutrality

Net Neutrality Politics, it is said, makes for strange bedfellows. And none stranger than Google and the Hollywood studios. Yet that’s where the two find themselves on the pivotal issue of the net neutrality debate: reclassification. Stranger still is how they got to that point, and the role played by Google TV.

You wouldn’t have thought of Google TV as a source of common interest between Google and Hollywood. Just last month, in the FCC’s separate AllVid proceeding regarding a proposed new home gateway for integrating video and broadband service, the MPAA filed comments with the agency calling such a gateway an open door to piracy. Though the studio group didn’t mention Google TV directly, it was clearly referring in its comments to Google’s plan to make traditional linear video content and web-based content searchable through a single, integrated interface. Such a set up, the MPAA warned could mean that “legitimate MVPD and online content sources will be presented in user interfaces alongside illegitimate sources (such as sites featuring pirated content).”

In other words, Google TV enables piracy.

In the reclassification proceeding, the MPAA is back expressing the studios’ reflexive and abiding concern that any technological or regulatory change will lead inevitably to more piracy. In this case, the fear is that reclassifying broadband access as a “common carrier” telecommunications service could  prevent network operators from one day implementing technical measures to filter, block, slow down or otherwise impede traffic in pirated bits. No surprise there.

What is a bit of a surprise is that Google agrees with the MPAA on the question of reclassification. While the joint legislative proposal with Verizon doesn’t specifically mention reclassification, its recommendation that the FCC be denied rulemaking authority with respect to net neutrality (as opposed to mere oversight authority) is a clear reference to reclassification because that would be the only mechanism by which the FCC could exercise such authority.

As I’ve argued in previous posts, Google’s growing TV ambitions, including Google TV, has made it far-more open to the opportunities presented by managed (or “differentiated”) services over broadband networks. Those ambitions have now made Google an ally of the studios on the issue of reclassification, even as the MPAA still classifies Google TV as a tool for piracy on the AllVid question. Strange indeed.

Further reading:

Google Defends its ‘Net Neutrality’ Plan

MPAA AllVid Comments

MPAA et. al. Reclassification Comments

Public Knowledge Urges FCC to Keep Moving on the Third Way

Verizon: Title II Classification Would Cause Widespread Harm

AT&T: FCC’s Third Way Would Be Road to Ruin