Monday, 10 November 2014

The latest US OTT machinations

A quick update to the update: Obama wades in:

There is so much news coming-out of the OTT market in the US at the moment that we’ve had to create it its own graphic. Today: the latest developments in the on-going net neutrality debate coupled with a small Canadian codicil.

First up, net neutrality. The FCC is, as we and the rest of the entire internet has mentioned before, looking at reclassifying broadband provision as a public utility in an attempt to effectively wrest back control of the whole concept from the open market.

As an ISP quite looking forward to the extra payments a two or even three speed internet would unlock, Verizon (the ruling in whose favour sent the whole edifice tumbling down and kick-started the debate at the start of the year) is somewhat opposed to this. Hence a bit of sabre-rattling and some veiled threats that the whole thing could be heading back to court sometime soon unless the FCC changes its stance.

Poor old Tom Wheeler and the FCC though are caught in something of a cleft stick. Not reclassifying ISPs as telecoms providers will probably lead to the development of the fast lane/s and be good for the ISPs and bad for consumers; while an attempt at reclassifying will be good for the content providers, bad for the ISPs and good for the consumer that’s seeking choice.

Is is a genuine regulatory crossroads but one of the key arguments, one reiterated by everyone from the White House to the CEOs of the likes of Kickstarter, is that there is a wider issue here too and that a free and open internet is about more than just being able to watch 4K films from Netflix in bed. That paradigm of greater consumer choice extends out to the whole internet in all of its multifarious and diverse uses.

Should the FCC prioritise its duty of care to consumers, or should it be looking to encourage the growth of industry? Answers on the back of a postcard please…And as to the implications for the rest of us, the chances are that it will put a very large cat amongst a flock of rather nervous pigeons.

Neelie Kroes, the European Union’s commissioner for the digital agenda tweeted earlier this year “Maybe I shd invite newly disadvantaged US startups to EU, so they have a fair chance.”

Not so much runaway productions as an entire runaway industry…

But then they have to be careful where they run to. Canadian lawmakers, for instance, are reportedly thinking about extending the production quotas that require all broadcasters to carry roughly one third of Canadian-produced content on to the OTT providers; not to mention asking them to contribute to the general pot that everyone else pays into to shore up the Canadian production industry. Netflix and Google have gone on record as saying they’re rather unimpressed.

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