Infrastructure

Comcast’s Xbox loop hole?

Net Neutrality Here’s an interesting one: Comcast is getting ready to roll out its Xfinity On Demand app for the Xbox 360, giving Xfinity TV subscribers who also have an Xbox Live Gold subscription access to Comcast’s on-demand library of content through their Xbox console and through the Kinect interface if they also have the gesture-control add-on (h/t Ars Technica).

That content includes thousands of movies and tens of thousands of TV titles that Comcast currently makes available to subscribers on-demand across a wide range of platforms. Since the Xfinity for Xbox service requires users to have at least one TV in the house connected to a Comcast set-top box, the new Xbox app presumably will also include access to the new Netflix-like Xfinity Streamix subscription service Comcast recently introduced that lets Comcast Digital Video customers stream thousands of additional movies and TV shows on-demand through their TV set-top box.

Best of all, according to Comcast’s FAQ page on the new Xbox app, Xfinity content streamed through Xbox Live will not count toward subscriber’s 250 GB per month data cap, because the content “is being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet.” Read More »

Pay to play

Net Neutrality The Wall Street Journal generated some buzz this morning with its story about the rude awakening greeting owners of the new 4G-enabled iPad when they discover that all the streaming video they’re consuming on their speedy new tablets is crushing their monthly data allotments. A weekend’s worth of March Madness can easily chew up 3GB of data from AT&T or Verizon, leaving iPad owners with nothing for the rest of the month unless they’re willing to pay an additional $10 per gigabyte.

The Journal may have buried the lede a bit, though, at least as far as content owners are concerned. Three grafs from the bottom of a long piece the paper mentions that AT&T is “studying a plan to give app developers and content providers the option to pay for the mobile data their products use, thereby keeping those apps and videos from counting against a user’s allotment of data, kind of like an 800-number for apps.”

As the website MacRumors put it, the plan “would presumably allow bandwidth usage for certain apps to be free. For example, watching shows from a TV network app such as ABC Player might not count against your monthly bandwidth allotment. Instead, ABC would pay AT&T (or Verizon) for the mobile bandwidth consumed. In return, ABC would likely see increased usage of their app to watch shows and more revenue from in-show advertising.” Read More »

Who lost SOPA?

Legislation The blame-storming in Hollywood over the failure of SOPA and the Protect-IP Act has begun. MPAA chief Chris Dodd offers a half-hearted mea culpa in the New York Times, acknowledging a “perception problem” for the industry. But he pins most of the blame on “irresponsible” technology players like Wikipedia, Google and Reddit for stirring up the natives with their blackouts and black propaganda.

More darkly, many in the media industry are blaming President Barack Obama for the loss, accusing him of a stab in the back for siding publicly with Silicon Valley after Hollywood had raised millions for his campaigns. One time SOPA and PIPA supporters in Congress who went wobbly in the face of public pressure are also coming in for scorn.

Most of the problems the media companies have had over SOPA and PIPA, however, have been self-inflicted. Read More »

Why Concurrent Media did not go black today

Legislation There were, as best I could tell without an engineering degree, sound engineering reasons to oppose the DNS-blocking provisions of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. An enforcement mechanism that relied on maintaining a security hole in the Domain Name System, just as Internet engineers around the world were implementing a long-awaited fix for that hole, seem pretty self-evidently a bad idea. Especially so since the enforcement purpose itself could be so easily defeated by the simple expedient of typing in IP addressed directly.

There were also, again as best I could tell, serious ideological and societal implications that flowed from that enforcement strategy. Insofar as DNS blocking in the U.S. would encourage the adoption of alternative systems for resolving IP addresses, which were not subject to U.S. jurisdiction but which more Read More »

SOPA slips away

Legislation You knew something was up when both Lamar Smith and Patrick Leahy, respectively the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, each issued statements Friday (Smith, Leahy) saying they would remove the DNS blocking provisions from their own signature anti-piracy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, and PROTECT-IP in the Senate. On Saturday, the rest of us found out what was up when the Obama Administration posted a statement on the White House blog saying it would not support any legislative measures “that tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS).”

And with that, the copyright industries’ biggest prize was lost. Read More »