Category Archives: Video

Woz to FCC: Save the Internet

Wozniak to the FCC on net neutrality:
Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway.
He also details examples of how difficult it was to start a new service the way the telephone system used to be, how radio used to all be freely receivable, and how cable TV is mis-regulated. He summarizes his case:
I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I’m asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to “sign on” with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I’m a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
Then he asks for all that not to happen to the Internet:
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
Ain’t that the truth.


Where the Money Leaving Music Sales is Really Going

Charles Arthur did a little research:
But the reality is that nowadays, one can choose between a game costing £40 that will last weeks, or a £10 CD with two great tracks and eight dud ones. I think a lot of people are choosing the game – and downloading the two tracks. That’s real discretion in spending. It’s hurting the music industry, sure. But let’s not cloud the argument with false claims about downloads.
Or keep making such claims and keep electing Pirate Party members the the EU Parliament. Either way such claims have a limited life span.

Movie King of the Internet: Bad Idea

kong_iup2.jpg Andrew Odlyzko asks what if the duopoly gets its way and completely does away with net neutrality:
But what if they do get their wish, net neutrality is consigned to the dustbin, and they do build their new services, but nobody uses them? If the networks that are built are the ones that are publicly discussed, that is a likely prospect. What service providers publicly promise to do, if they are given complete control of their networks, is to build special facilities for streaming movies. But there are two fatal defects to that promise. One is that movies are unlikely to offer all that much revenue. The other is that delivering movies in real-time streaming mode is the wrong solution, expensive and unnecessary. If service providers are to derive significant revenues and profits by exploiting freedom from net neutrality limitations, they will need to engage in much more intrusive control of traffic than just provision of special channels for streaming movies.

The delusions of net neutrality, Andrew Odlyzko, School of Mathematics, University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA Revised version, August 17, 2008

Why is that?
But video, and more generally content (defined as material prepared by professionals for wide distribution, such as movies, music, newscasts, and so on), is not king, and has never been king. While content has frequently dominated in terms of volume of traffic, connectivity has almost universally been valued much more highly and brought much higher revenues. Movies cannot be counted on to bring in anywhere near as much in revenues as voice services do today.
The Internet isn't about Sarnoff's Law (broadcast content like TV, radio, and newspapers) or even about Metcalfe's Law (1-n connectivity, like telephone or VoIP): it's about Reed's law, 2n-n connectivity, such as blogs, P2P, and facebook). That's my interpretation; Odlyzko probably wouldn't agree.

Anyway, that video content such as movies is king is one of the primary delusions Odlyzko addresses in this paper. The other is that movies need to be streamed in realtime. It is mysterious why people continue to believe that in the face of the massive evidence BitTorrent and other P2P services that deliver big content in chunks faster than realtime. I can only attribute this second delusion to a bellhead mindset that still thinks in terms of telephone, which was realtime because nobody knew any other way to do it back in the analog-copper-wire-connection day.

As Odlyzko sums it up:

The general conclusion is that the story presented by service providers, that they need to block net neutrality in order to be able to afford to construct special features in their networks for streaming movies, is simply not credible. If lack of net neutrality requirements is to be exploited, it will have to be done through other, much more intrusive means.
So why let the duopoly force a policy on everyone else that won't even work to the advantage of the duopoly?

One way to get net neutrality would be to let the duopoly have its way, and wait for it to implode. However, given that for streaming video to have any chance of succeeding, the duopoly would have to clamp down on everything else to eliminate any competition, I shudder to think what this would mean. The Internet as a source of real news and opinion would go away. Given that the vestigial traditional news media in the U.S. (TV, radio, newspapers) provide so little news, there's a very good chance that most people in the U.S. wouldn't even know how bad they had it as the country sped its slide into parochialism and irrelevance. How many people even know now that the U.S. has slid from #1 to #23 or whatever the latest number is in broadband uptake? If the duopoly is given its head, even fewer would know.

If we let King Kong Telco and T Rex Cableco battle it out to be Movie King of the Internet, where does that leave poor Fay Wray Public?

FCC, FTC, Congress, executive, and courts, not to mention the public, should all read Odlyzko's paper, and should all refuse the duopoly's demand for special privileges that won't even produce profits for the duopoly. Then all of above should legislate, enforce, and maintain net neutrality so we will all profit and benefit. Yes, even the duopoly can win with this.


Kevin Martin’s Bottle: Weak Ruling Against Comcast Guarantees Court Challenges

The FCC recently ruled that Comcast has to stop throttling P2P. On the surface, that's a good thing. That Kevin Martin wanted it makes me wonder.

For once I agree with a net neutrality opponent:

By instituting this weird, weak, and barely legal regulation, Kevin Martin will get ‘net neutrality regulation bottled up in the courts for – what – the next five years?

Game, Set, and Match: Martin! by Jim Harper, Technology Liberation Front, 6 Aug 2008

Harper goes on to predict that meanwhile real competition could develop. And pigs could fly, but that's not the point.

This is the point:

The paragraph prior to the provocative line suggesting regulation of universities contains this sentence: “Allowing some Internet service providers to manage P2P traffic – much less to engage in complete blocking of P2P traffic – while prohibiting others from doing so would be arbitrary and capricious.” This is an administrative-law term of art – “arbitrary and capricious.” The use of it tells us that NCTA or Comcast will challenge the FCC’s decision to regulate only one provider of Internet access without regulating all similarly situated.

But Comcast is under a different regulatory regime!, says Harold and the others. Not in an enforcement of this “broad policy statement” thing-y. The FCC is claming free rein to regulate – not authority based firmly in statute – and if it can throw that rein over cable ISPs, it can throw that rein over universities, over Starbucks, and over the open wi-fi node in Harold’s house.

Now, given the free rein that the FCC is asserting, there is a darn good argument that it’s arbitrary (and “capricious”) to regulate only cable ISPs or commercial ISPs in this way. The FCC has to regulate the whole damn Internet this way if it’s going to regulate Comcast.

This is not just theoretical. Fox News recently refused to pay an FCC-imposed fine, saying it was "arbitrary and capricious". Fox cited a previous case in which a federal court slapped down the FCC for fining a show for swearing, saying it was "arbitrary and capricious".

All that plus if a court rules the FCC's recent decision is "arbitrary and capricious", that will be used as a precedent to require universities to regulate content on their networks in favor of big copyright holders, as elements in Congress have been trying to do for about a year now.

I think net neutrality advocates underestimate Kevin Martin at their (and our) peril.


Boehner’s Latest Crying Jag

20070216-tearfulboehner.jpg Boo hoo:
At least one lawmaker is already crying foul over Friday’s expected Federal Communications Commission’s censure of Comcast for faking internet traffic to limit its customers’ peer-to-peer file sharing.

Republican minority leader Rep. John Boehner said the FCC would be “essentially regulating the internet.”

Lawmaker Cries Foul Ahead of FCC Net-Neutrality Decision, By David Kravets, ThreatLevel, July 31, 2008 | 7:02:45 PM

This is rather like crying foul because courts regulate contracts. I wonder how the free market would operate without them? The Internet free market in applications and services wouldn’t operate very well without net neutrality.

I don’t recall Boehner crying foul when Congress voted to regulate the Internet to require ISPs to hand over every bit (every email, phone call, web page, video, etc.) to the NSA and to legalize them having already done it when it was illegal. No free market talk from him then. Guess he didn’t think the Fourth Amendment was worth crying over, unlike Anna Nicole Smith.

And back in 1995, it was the duopoly ISPs demanding regulation from the FCC, because they wanted to squelch VoIP.

Now they want to squelch everybody else’s P2P and especially online video, except what they get a cut of. They think they can get away with it if the FCC stays out of the way, so now they are against regulation.

Their principles flip-flop kind of like Boehner’s, don’t they? Bunch of cry babies.


PlusNet: Honest Prioritization

plusnetusage.gif Unlike Comcast and Cox, PlusNet in the U.K. says what it is doing:
The principles of PlusNet’s network management policies
  • To make sure that time-critical applications like VoIP and gaming are always prioritised
  • To protect interactive applications like web-browsing and VPN from non-time sensitive download traffic
  • To flex the network under demand to cope with normal peaks and troughs from day to day and month to month
  • To flex the network more gracefully than other ISPs in the event of unusual demands in traffic or disaster situations such as a network failure
  • To provide a service relative to the amount each customer pays in terms of usage and experience
  • Provides a ‘quality of service’ effect, meaning multiple applications running on the same line interact with each other effectively, and use of high demand protocols like Peer-to-Peer doesn’t swamp time-sensitive traffic such as online gaming or a VoIP call.
Traffic Prioritisation, PlusNet, accessed 26 Nov 2007
Interestingly, this list does not cite video as the most-favored application, instead it lists VoIP and gaming, which are participatory services. However, scan down to their table of types of traffic, and VoIP and gaming are Titanium, while video-on-demand is the highest level, Platinum. Continue reading

Obama Catches up with Edwards on Net Neutrality

obamamtv.jpg Back in June, John Edwards wrote a letter to the FCC back in June about the 700Mhz auction, in which he got it about the Internet and participation and opportunity.

Now Barack Obama answers a question from a former AT&T engineer, Joe Niederberger, that made it to the top of a video contest:

Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to re-instate Net Neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint FCC commissioners that support open Internet principles like Net Neutrality?”

Net Neutrality becomes issue in presidential race, Extra Technology News, 29 October 2007

Part of Obama’s answer:
Facebook, MySpace and Google might not have been started if you did not have a level playing field for whoever has the best idea. And I want to maintain that basic principle in how the Internet functions. As president I’m going to make sure that [net neutrality] is the principle that my FCC commissioners are applying as we move forward.
Here’s the question and answer on video.


Content Protect v. Internet Freedom

content_protection.png Here’s another view of what the telcos and cablecos have in mind for us, or, rather, what they want in our minds: approved content. This is substantially different from the Internet freedom we have today to look at whatever we want to and to publish our own content.


AT&T Inc. has joined Hollywood studios and recording companies in trying to keep pirated films, music and other content off its network — the first major carrier of Internet traffic to do so.
Get ready for the Amazon Channel or settle for Internet Base Service. Continue reading

NYTimes Sets Itself Free

times_select.gif Two years ago the New York Times made its best marketing estimate of how to derive income from the web, and put many of its back stories beyond a paywall called TimeSelect, at $49.95/year or $7.95/month. Times change:
In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free.

The Times said the project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating about $10 million a year in revenue.

“But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site,

What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.

“What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” Ms. Schiller said.

Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site, By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, New York Times, September 18, 2007

This is why it’s a bad idea to let the telcos and cablecos determine what we can see or do on the web. Nobody can predict what will work best, especially for deriving revenue.

Hm, this would also mean that the duopoly’s insistence on TV as the future of Internet revenue could be just as wrong for them as it is for the rest of us.


PS: Seen on BoingBoing.

Back to the ITU Future

itu.jpg I should have expected the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to be involved in this:
Another document came out last week that ties this all together. It’s from the ITU, and it’s called “Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2007: The Road to Next-Generation Networks (NGN).”

The ITU defines “NGN” as a network that provides quality-of-service-enabled transport technologies. The idea is that packet transport will be “enriched with Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) to ensure Quality of Service (QoS).”

Translation, as far as I can tell: packet transport becomes the same as circuit-switched transport. Prioritization is controlled; it’s a network optimized on billing.

Tying things together, by Susan Crawford, Susan Crawford blog, Mon 10 Sep 2007 08:05 PM ED

This takes us back to the bad old days when national telephone companies sold you data service by the byte, through their preferred protocol, X.25. The advantage of circuit switching was supposed to be fully provisioned copper wires or other resources all the way through between two parties. The disadvantages were that you sometimes couldn’t get a connection and the high price, which got even higher between countries. It seems the telcos have settled on MPLS as their modern equivalent of X.25.