Yesterday morning, the Internet went into a total tizzy when Comcast users found themselves unable to access the infamous torrent site ThePirateBay. Almost immediately, the accusations of intentional blocking spread like wildfire despite Comcast’s insistence that they aren’t doing anything. This reveals a pretty telling truth: Comcast’s foray into filtering traffic has done permanent and incalculable damage to the brand, even years after admitting to the blocking and putting an end to it.
Is Comcast blocking anything? I doubt it. They took such a big PR black eye the first time that they’re unlikely to be dumb enough to try it again. That the stain persists years later, however, shows what a bad move it is to manipulate user traffic. Let that be a warning to all service providers of the lasting consequences of abusing users.
If regulators sign off on it, the nation’s largest cable company will end up with a significant foothold in both the broadcast media and movie industries. Overnight, a content distributor becomes a content producer. Pre-merger, Comcast had little incentive to play along with the copyright cop ambitions of the RIAA and MPAA. This merger could change everything, driving Comcast into policing not just the distribution of its own wares but those of fellow studios.
Given how Time Warner Cable would regularly roll over for MPAA requests to disconnect service, both before and after being spun off from parent company Time Warner, this is a legitimate and pressing concern. The MPAA spends a lot of time trying to track down pirates and they often get the wrong person. The MPAA has also pushed hard for restricting what DVRs can record, locking down digital media to the point of near-uselessness, and wiping out net neutrality so that peer-to-peer programs can be blocked on a whim. None of these proposals are good for Comcast data or video customers and I do not think Comcast wants to unnecessarily restrict what customers can and cannot do with their connection.
That said, what will they do when Universal Pictures, a division of the merged company, has a competing interest? Which part of the company has their interests heard first? Will Comcast give Universal special access to routers and logs to track down pirates? Will they start using deep packet inspection? What can the falsely accused do about it?
This is why we should be very, very scared of the continued integration of media and telecommunications companies. The verticial monopoly of wholesale and retail telecom is bad enough, but when they control the content going over the pipe as well, it can get really ugly really fast.
Sorry about the late post, folks. I had family in town over the weekend and, well, you know how that goes.
Cable’s been trying to make some waves with online video announcements as The Pirate Bay continues to dominate the prosecution in their trial. There’s also allegations that the US might be #1 in broadband, but it depends on which metrics you use or give weight to. I’ve also got a bunch of stories on online services and home media extenders. All that and more in this week’s Broadband Bytes!
Verizon will allow you to stream music, pictures, and (soon) video from your PC to any FIOS STB in your house. FIOS MediaManager is available to all double-play video/Internet customers for free and while the initial interface is a bit on the clunky side, it’s that kind of innovative product that keeps customers. Providers can also extend this to offer media streaming outside of the home. If you don’t have to mess around with a HTPC or setup your own streaming solution, why would you? Verizon is also letting subscribers remotely schedule DVR recordings.
What’s 400MB, written by John Carmack, and totally changes online gaming? Quake III in a browser, that’s what. Quake Live launched to queues of over 55,000 players waiting to get their hands on what is likely to be the most popular free-to-play non-casual browser game. This isn’t your typical small casual flash game and it’s likely to draw a big crowd. With a success like this, will you be ready for browser-based games pushing gigabytes of data? If you need an upgrade in a screen, there are tons of the best gaming monitor reviews to read on the internet, it’s good to spend sometime knowing what will be the most bang for your buck.
The first Blu-Ray quality movies for purchase on an STB come from VUDU, not a big-name MSO or media store like iTunes. At between $14 and $24 per title, that’s a considerable discount over Blu-Ray discs, though you do sacrifice some portability.
Netflix plans to launch a streaming-only plan this year or next. The powerhouse in mail-order DVDs has seen most of its subscriber growth centered around the 12,000-title strong Watch It Now feature and its availability on everything from PCs to XBox360s to TV sets. The company has proved itself savvy enough to be ahead of what consumers want, a lesson that others could learn from.
T-Mobile is rolling out unlimited voice plans for long-time customers at a mere $50 per month. Customers will also be able to tack on data and SMS/MMS for just $35 per month more. With competitive pricing like this, you have to give customers a reason to keep a landline around.
If you’re being hit by black hat hackers, it could be personal, not business. About a quarter of malicious activity in 2008 was aimed at making a statement rather than the traditional ID theft or malware planting. I’m sure that’s not much comfort to Time Warner as they ride out a DDoS attack on their DNS servers.
Headlines this last week have been dominated by the DTV switch, The Pirate Bay’s trial, and a finalization of the broadband stimulus amount. There were also announcements on 4G wireless from AT&T and Verizon as well as more movement towards online video (and a big step back for Hulu). All this and more in this week’s Broadband Bytes!
The broadband stimulus number has firmed up at $7.2B in total spending and BPL looks like an unexpected back-from-the-dead winner. IBM plans to apply for stimulus funds to roll out BPL service to over 200k rural customers. The challenge is determining just which areas are considered underserved or unserved. Public Knowledge slammed Connected Nation, a broadband mapping group, as nothing more than a front for big ISPs and accused them of making up bogus broadband maps to serve their interests. It’s entirely possible that Connected Nation could score the lion’s share of the $350M in funds for mapping, a scary proposition if the accusations are true. After all, this isn’t the end of federal broadband efforts.
There’s a new attempt in Congress to force ISPs and hotspot owners to keep 2 years worth of access and subscriber logs to assist law enforcement. The justification, as usual, is that retaining the data will help catch people dealing in child porn. Unfortunately, keeping and managing two years worth of access logs is a huge undertaking, especially for wifi hotspots and home owners who choose to share their connection. Such efforts have typically died in committee despite previous pushes from both sides of the aisle.
In what I can only hope is the start of a trend, Linksys will be selling a router with integrated Internet security software. It’s only going to block malicious or suspicious websites for the time being, but future models could integrate anti-spyware and anti-virus. If someone offered such a device, I would definitely buy one. It beats installing resource-hogging security software on every PC.
Recession-influenced special pricing continues as operators struggle to hold on to cash-strapped customers. Sprint rolled out a new “Simply Everything” plan that adds laptop data (but not phone-as-modem) for another $50 a month. T-Mobile is also rumored to be looking at unlimited options of it’s own including a $50/mo unlimited voice plan as well as a $85/mo unlimited mobile voice and data plan. Verizon, though, takes the cake for considering a $5/mo inbound-only landline. Utah, though, is taking a step back. The legislature approved a move to upcap phone service rates for incumbents like Qwest and it is largely expected to be signed off on by the governor.
Qwest announced key leadership changes in Sales and IT. The link includes some background about each of the new executives that have been chosen. I’m hoping the new leaders will realize the importance of bringing telecommunications into the 21st century by investing in infrastructure like Verizon has been doing and understand the increasing importance of upload speeds.
Recently, it has come to light that Comcast has been throttling bandwidth for various applications with little or no disclosure. In a 67 page order, the FCC has said that “Comcast has 30 days to fess up about P2P throttling”. On Wednesday, there were also reports that Comcast would slow traffic for heavy users, but today in the NYTimes Comcast claims that no final decisions have been made about managing network traffic.
There is a looming problem on the Internet, IP addresses are running out. There is a finite number of addresses and experts keep telling us we are close to exhaustion. The solution is IPV6, but according to reports, it is failing to gain traction.
Internet traffic is on the rise and consumers are using more and more bandwidth:
“As cable and phone companies race to upgrade services or offer video for the first time, they’re doing it by installing equipment in boxes on lawns, easements and curbs all over American neighborhoods. Telecommunications rollouts have always been messy, but several towns and residents are fighting back…”
Some ISP’s have responded to increased bandwidth usage by some of their customers with announcements of new bandwidth caps.
P2P data is a big bandwidth user, apparently accounting for 40%-60% of all the traffic used on the Internet. Some researchers have a novel idea for cutting bandwidth usage. In a paper to be released next week, researchers found a way to lessen the load of P2P with an algorithm they dub “P4P”. Though the P4P article is scant on technical details, it involves finding shorter routes between users thereby making the traffic traverse fewer networks.
An analyst at a major investment firm says that broadband competition is today as good as it is going to get and that there aren’t going to be any major disruptive technologies in broadband in the future. All the more reason UTOPIA is so important: it provides an open infrastructure that fosters provider competition.
Speaking of politics, this article has an interesting look at the Internet policy in the 2008 Democratic platform. I couldn’t find any info yet about the 2008 Republican platform (it hasn’t been released yet). In 2004, the Republican platform stated: “Broadband provides Americans with high-speed Internet access connections that improve the nation’s economic productivity and offer life-enhancing applications, such as distance learning, remote medical diagnostics, and the ability to work from home more effectively…Broadband technology will enhance our nation’s economic competitiveness and will improve education and health care for all Americans.” It’s nice to see that both major parties acknowledge the importance of broadband for the future of this country.
We’ll see you at the Layton U-CAN meeting on Saturday at Noon at the Davis Library.