FCC Unloads, Releases 313-page Report and Order on Net Neutrality

The full text of the FCC’s open internet order has now been released, along with 305 additional pages of exegetical elaboration and 79 pages of formal dissents from the two Republican commissioners.

ppcommissioners-nov-2013-webFrom an OTT perspective, there isn’t much in the full text that wasn’t already known from what the FCC released last month when it voted to approve the rules: The order’s “bright-line” rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization do not apply to commercial interconnection arrangements. However, the FCC will consider complaints regarding those arrangements and will take (unspecified) enforcement action if an ISP’s behavior is determined to violate the order’s “general conduct standard,” prohibiting actions that “unreasonably” interfere with or damage consumers or edge providers. Read More »

HBO Leaves in the Middle Man

HBO just can’t quit the bundle. With HBO Now, its new, over-the-top streaming service, the network for the first time is making its content available to stream without a pay-TV subscription. But HBO still hopes to sell it as part of a bundle. The only differences are the the other components of the bundle and the identity of the bundlers.

At launch, HBO Now will be sold exclusively by Apple and available on Apple devices only. According to HBO’s FAQ, “you can subscribe to HBO NOW using your iTunes account. Customers can access HBO NOW by going to HBONOW.com, through AppleTV® or by downloading the HBO NOW app in the Apple App Store®.” Apple and HBO will then share customer support duties. Read More »

Finger-pointing over interconnection

When a consumer’s OTT video stream starts rebuffering, or suffers packet losses resulting in degraded quality, it’s often hard to know where to direct blame. The problem is typically caused by congestion somewhere between the content’s originating server and the consumer’s receiving device. But exactly where in the chain of transit that congestion is occurring, and more importantly who is responsible and why, can be difficult even for engineers — and virtually impossible for consumers — to ascertain.

045448280-maclean-d-deshler-m-baldwinBack when it appeared the FCC was poised to classify interconnection arrangements between last-mile ISPs and third-party transit and content providers as a new, distinct type of Title II service the question of liability for congestion in the chain of transit suddenly became urgent for those involved in wholesale traffic exchanges. Read More »

Net Neutrality: Interconnection Covered, But Not By ‘Bright Line’ Rules

After a flurry of last-minute lobbying and internal debate the FCC ultimately backed off its plan to define interconnection arrangements between ISPs and third-party content and applications providers as distinct service separate from last-mile internet access service in its Open Internet order, which it approved today by a 3-2 party line vote. But the commission asserted its authority under Title II of the Communications Act to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if it determines that specific interconnection practices by ISPs are not “just and reasonable.”

ppcommissioners-nov-2013-webThe decision to drop the separate classification of the service that ISPs make available to edge providers marks an apparent shift from the proposal outlined in the Feb. 4 fact sheet released by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, which referred to interconnection and last-mile service separately. But it eliminates the potential legal problem for the commission’s authority to review interconnection arrangements that separate classification could have created. Read More »

For OTT providers, ‘strong’ Net Neutrality may be losing its strength

Don’t look now OTT fans but the net neutrality rules expected to be enacted Thursday by the FCC may turn out to be not as OTT-friendly as it originally appeared they would be.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

When FCC chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled his “fact sheet” on the upcoming rules on Feb. 4, it looked as if the commission was poised to adopt the “strong” version of net neutrality pushed by Netflix and others. According to the fact sheet, the rules would treat interconnection arrangements between ISPs and third-party edge providers as a Title II service subject to the same “just and reasonable” standard that will apply to ISPs’ management of their last-mile networks. Read More »

The next OTT battleground: Zero-rating

The FCC this week is expected to approve on a party-line vote chairman Tom Wheeler’s long-gestating plan to impose new net neutrality rules by reclassifying internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, setting in motion a process by which the world will finally get to see the full text of the 308-page Memorandum and Order and begin fighting — almost certainly in court — over its particulars.

TMO1-1149_Baracuda_ALL_R13_03-03One thing that apparently will not be in the order, however, is any bright-line rule banning so-called “zero-rated” data plans offered by wireless operators and ISPs under which particular applications are not counted toward a user’s monthly data cap. Read More »

Peter Chernin: The Future of Live Sports is Online

Former News Corp. president Peter Chernin, who now runs The Chernin Group, thinks live sports will eventually be a bigger business on the web than on broadcast channels.

044924465-st-patricks-day-sports-showgro“I’m not sure what the timeline is, but there’s clearly more money to be made online than there is out of those broadcast deals,” he said Wednesday at the Re/Code Media conference. “There’s more money to be made on a subscription basis, through targeting, they’re global, there’s almost zero distribution friction. I think what the leagues are wrestling with, especially the big leagues, is what is the breadth of their audience on each of those three big national platforms.” Read More »

Net neutrality disconnection?

As ISPs, both large and small, gear up to sue the FCC over its forthcoming net neutrality order, even strong supporters of net neutrality have begun pointing to potential legal problems with the proposal outlined by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this month. One of biggest we-can-haz-net-neutralitypotential problems, as far as OTT providers are concerned, was flagged by Free Press policy director Matthew Wood. Read More »

Sling takes a swing at the mobile-phone model

One of Dish’s aims in developing Sling TV was to keep the cost low enough to attract those otherwise disinclined to pay for TV service.

“Affordability is a key attribute of the Sling TV service,” Dish president Joe Clayton said at CES. “The price will be substantially — and I mean substantially — below” traditional pay-TV offerings.

FTV-DishDoc-FTVSDevice-300x265Compared to Netflix, Hulu Plus and other OTT streaming services, however, the $20 a month base price for Sling TV is actually pretty high. And that higher price point, and therefore higher ARPU, is allowing Sling to experiment with a business model other streaming services have eschewed so far: subsidized hardware. Read More »

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’s legacy

In addition to their many other accomplishments, it’s hard to overstate the impact that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have had on the evolution of the TV business over the past decade. As Stewart now follows Colbert from his late-night, Comedy Central post they leave a transformed industry in their wakes.

jon-stewart-leaving-the-daily-showStewart and Colbert didn’t invent irony on television, or even in fake news — Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update segments on Saturday Night Live helped get that ball rolling 40 years ago — but their incisive, if mocking nightly meta-critique of how “truthiness” in news is manufactured, packaged and sold today left mainstream news organizations all looking self-consciously over their shoulders. At the same time, they helped create an entirely new paradigm for how a generation of viewers watched and understood the news. Read More »

Title II, Round 2

Now that we know the broad outlines of the FCC’s forthcoming open internet order the next phase of the battle over net neutrality rules is getting under way. It will be fought out on at least three fronts: in the courts, on Capitol Hill and within the FCC itself.

The main front will be in the courts, where litigation is all but certain to be filed challenging the commission’s decision to reclassify broadband access as a Title II telecommunications service, probably by AT&T, just as soon as the new rules are formally published in the Federal Register. AT&T has already telegraphed its litigation plans, as well as the legal arguments it’s likely to make. Read More »

This week: Music streaming business gets funky

Music subscription service Spotify last week hired Goldman Sachs to help it raise around $500 million at a valuation in the neighborhood of $7 billion. Private market analysts currently value the company at around $6 billion.

iphone-artistThe new fund raising round likely pushes back any plans the company had for an IPO, no doubt disappointing some investors. But it buys the company some time before it has to focus on IPO prep as it gets ready to face its first real competition. According to a report by the usually well-sourced 9to5Mac, Apple is gearing up to relaunch a Beats-branded music streaming service this summer.

Rather than simply dropping a Beats app onto Apple devices, the report says Apple has been working on a deep integration of Beats technology and functionality into iOS, iTunes and Apple TV: Read More »

Netflix gets its ‘strong’ net neutrality; now what?

Other than President Obama, whose surprise endorsement of reclassifying broadband access as a Title II telecommunications service upended the FCC’s open internet proceeding late in the game, nobody moved the ball farther in the net neutrality debate than Netflix.

WEB_RegDarwin_OutofDevice_USAfter months of insisting it would not seek to regulate interconnection arrangements between last-mile ISPs and “edge providers” like Netflix, or its middle-mile transit service providers, as part of its open internet proceeding, the agency has apparently done an about-face and will now do just that, by bringing those arrangements under the same Title II umbrella that will now cover last-mile service. Read More »