The mediageek radioshow airs live this Thursday, August 20 at 9 PM Central time on WNUR 89.3 FM in Evanston-Chicago, IL and online at www.wnur.org. If you have questions or comments for Tim Hwang send them to me by email – paul(at)mediageek(dot)net – or by twitter. The syndicated podcast will be posted Sunday night, or you can listen to the show on any of the thirteen other affiliates listed at the radioshow site.
Posts tagged: network neutrality
Last week the FCC started an inquiry into why Apple rejected the new Google Voice app from its iPhone app store, sending letters to both companies and AT&T, the exclusive cell carrier of the iPhone in the US. Google Voice is a service that allows a user to receive all of her calls and text messages at a single number, and then have them routed intelligently to wherever she is. Speculation abounds that Apple rejected the app because it poses a threat to AT&T’s voice network, where users pay for a certain number of minutes or text messages, because it routes calls over the data network, where users pay a flat rate for unlimited usage.
A screen shot of an online chat with an Apple rep purports to show that Apple blames AT&T for the Google Voice block. For its part AT&T says it “does not manage or approve applications for the App Store.”
It’s a tangled web at the moment, but still one thing is clear: while Blackberry and Android phone users can get Google Voice, iPhone users are blocked.
But it’s not just about Google Voice, though this instance appears to have come at the right time, with a newly confirmed and tech-savvy FCC Chairman, along with a full slate of commissioners for the first time since 2008. There are other apps you can’t get in the iPhone store, and those that are crippled–like Skype and the Sling Player–presumably to protect AT&T’s cellular voice and cable TV services from competition.
While it’s true one can still go shopping for a different phone or a different carrier to avoid some of these restrictions, it’s also true that not every carrier or phone is available everywhere. There are places where you can’t get an iPhone, and places where you can only get a smartphone by using AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. Increasingly it’s looking like the worst fears of Net Neutrality advocates have come to mobile devices first.
Veteran FCC watchers are actually amazed at how fast Chairman Genachowski responded to the Google Voice iPhone story, since the agency isn’t known for quick action. Such responsiveness may be an indicator as to how critical the potential threat is to free and open communications, given the likelihood that soon more people will access the ‘net via a mobile device than with a PC.
I want to know what you think: should the FCC or Congress step in to regulate mobile cellular and broadband networks and devices? Should the government act to limit handset exclusivity and curtail the power of Apple and AT&T to reject applications that might promote competition?
The radioshow airs live this Thursday at 9 PM Central time on WNUR 89.3 FM in Chicago and online at WNUR.org. If you’re listening live we’ll also be taking your calls at 847-866-9687. The following week you can listen to the podcast archive online or on any of the 13 other mediageek affiliate stations.
Last Tuesday’s presidential inauguration was one of those moments where I think all business except for vital functions like transit and public safety stopped all over the country as people tuned in to watch Obama’s swearing in. Another thing that stopped for a lot of people was the internet. Arguably this was one of the biggest, if not the biggest live streaming video events in the history of the event. It was also one of biggest tests for streaming video over the internet, and the results were decidedly mixed.
I was at work on Tuesday, where one of my responsibilities is providing instructional media support. As soon as I got in that morning I started getting requests from people all over our building to set them up to watch the inauguration. Now, the building I work in is poured concrete monstrosity that acts like a Faraday cage, successfully blocking reception of most broadcast signals. On top of that, there’s no cable TV in building. So I advised anyone who asked about getting a TV that they should consider viewing a live stream. Then I went to go set up a live stream in a large conference room with a video projector. At that moment I realized that maybe the live stream wasn’t going to work out so well, as it took many different attempts on several different sites before we could get anything to stream for more than a few seconds. That was around 30 minutes before the inauguration was set to begin.
When I returned to my office all attempts to get a stream there–whether from CNN, Ustream or even the CBC–resulted in failure. A few minutes after the ceremony began I received an email from our central IT network department, advising us that our multi-gigabit campus network had ground to a halt due to people watching the inauguration online. Looking at Twitter and the CNN live Facebook stream I saw that we were not alone, as folks all over the internet were finding it hard to get a reliable stream.
In the end it looks like about 7 million people were able to get live streams of the inauguration, according to Dan Rayburn whose estimates are based on talking to actual content distribution networks. By any standard that’s an impressive simultaneous viewership for the internet. But it’s less impressive compared to broadcast television, where 37.8 million people watched the inauguration.
More illustrative of the difference is the number of people who were denied the ability to watch the inauguration due to capacity limits. That is, another 37 million people could have tuned in to the inauguration on broadcast, cable or satellite TV while still leaving capacity for 37 million more. Whereas on the internet 7 million appears to be the upper limit — past that nobody else could watch.
Read more »
Last month Matthew Lasar dug up info on this mysterious Julius Genachowski whose name starting circulating as a candidate for Obama’s FCC Chairman. Late Monday night the news broke that Genachowski is slated to be Obama’s nominee for the job. As Matthew noted in his Ars Technica article yesterday, the public interest community is responding positively to this news, primarily based upon Genachowski’s work on Obama’s “Technology and Innovation” plan. Given that candidate Obama was specific in his support for Network Neutrality, the hope inspired by Genchowski’s likely nomination appears to be more well founded than any other news on the Net Neutrality front in the last year.
However, much is still unknown about Genachowski’s views on media issues, like ownership concentration and indecency enforcement. He was an assistant to Clinton-appointed FCC Chairman Reed Hundt in the 1990s, and we might learn a little bit about Genachowski by looking at his former boss’ tenure at the Commission. With regard to media ownership, Hundt opposed lifting the nationwide radio ownership cap. The lifting of the cap–which brought on the Clear Channel era–happened with the passing of the Telecomm Act of 1996 by Congress, signed by President Clinton, and was not decided by the Hundt FCC. Hundt was also a proponent of children’s programming requirements, while also pushing for indecency fines against the likes of Howard Stern.
We’re sure to learn more about Genachowski’s views on a whole panoply of communication issues when he goes up for confirmation by the Senate. Here’s hoping that his apparently progressive outlook on Net Neutrality is combined with the willingness to put the brakes on the Bush FCC’s full-speed gallop on loosening media ownership limits. I must admit that ensuring a free and open internet, along with enacting policies to stimulate high-speed broadband build-out really should be the top priority for media and telecomm, above all.
With the lessons learned from the 1996 Telecomm Act and the ill-considered experiment of taking away common carrier status from internet (therefore creating the need for Net Neutrality) there exists a blueprint for creating a much more vibrant, diverse and free media ecology.
If you enjoy a good FCC hearing now and again, you can watch the hearing live online:
If you don’t quite have the four and a half hours to spare you should be able to watch an archive on the FCC website within some reasonable timeframe after the hearing is over. If you prefer a digest version, I intend to play some excerpts on this coming Friday’s radioshow.
If you prefer a text digest, at least one Twitter user is live-tweeting the hearing from Pittsburgh.
And, I write this under the assumption that somehow anything at this hearing will make a difference….
The Benton Foundation has compiled an excellent wrap-up of testimony and press coverage of yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on network neutrality.
I was able to listen to a pretty good portion of the testimony at yesterday’s FCC hearing on broadband network management at Stanford University. My overall impression is that the public interest in a free, open internet got a pretty fair hearing, overall, with even some of the more “free market” economists having to admit market failure and problems with Comcast’s blocking BitTorrent, even if they still don’t like net neutrality (or at least not the term “network neutrality).
Two interesting moments for me were when Michele Combs from the Christian Coalition testified that Comcast was blocking torrents distributing the King James bible, and hearing from Robb Topolski, the software quality engineer who first identified and rooted out Comcast’s blocking technique. Highlights from some of the expert testimony air on today’s radioshow, already online, including an excerpt from Topolski.
As I mentioned yesterday, there were several people using Twitter from the audience in Stanford, posting quick updates on the action. I found this play-by-play really valuable, since I didn’t have the luxury to pay constant attention to the hearing webcast.
SavetheInternet.com has a short summary with links to some of the written testimony.
The FCC has archived the audio from the hearing, along with captions [Real Audio].
I’m in San Jose, CA for Streaming Media West, an online media conference, which begins tomorrow. I’m very interested in hearing tomorrow’s keynote by Ashwin Navin, President & Co-Founder of BitTorrent, who is talking about how a commercial P2P network can be used to distribute legal audio and video content.
I hope he’ll address the recent revelation about Comcast interfering with its customers BitTorrent traffic and how that might be affecting his company’s business model. I can’t imagine he can ignore the issue — otherwise it’ll be the 900 pound gorilla in the room (and I’ll ask the question myself).
My experience in the online media industry is that network neutrality is the issue nobody wants to talk about too much, both because regulation is rarely a popular issue, and because there is the real hope that it isn’t needed. Unfortunately, Comcast’s interference with BitTorrent traffic–regardless of whether the shared content is permitted to be shared or not–is the single most clear example of a non-neutral network in action. So I’m very curious what BitTorrent thinks about Net Neutrality now.
I’ll be sure to blog this keynote the best I can (delayed a few moments due to the fact there’s no wifi in the presentation rooms themselves).