Why Hollywood should support Anti-Piracy through Net Neutrality

I know, I know, I know… InterStream support net neutrality? If net neutrality means that we can get the Internet to insure any legitimate user can get on those “diamond , slow, or in-between lanes”, then we have a fair system that gives us a great multimedia experience. Right?

Well, things get a bit more complex even if we reach broad agreement on what fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAN) access means. Some of the proposed legislation could have dangerous consequences by prohibiting innovation to create a true multimedia Internet – even if specific applications like voice or video would all have equal access within their "lanes". In essence, some of this proposed legislation would force ISPs to “treat all packets equally”. Whatever that means would be up to the interpretation of the FCC. Then we would need to have some form of a political and technical body that determines which applications belong in what “lanes”. They would have to make sure they conformed to specific technical standards that did not create problems for other applications traveling along side them. The FCC, or whomever, would have a mandate stating any party could gain access for approximately the same price so that there could be no collusion and anti-trust problems. This part might make sense - although it would be better left to the FTC, not the FCC. It is the nightmarish bureaucracy and unintended consequences of the first part that really concerns me.

Today, on some highways here in California, we have "truck lanes", diamond lanes and in the middle, "best-effort everybody has access" general use lanes. It sounds like the recently proposed Markey bill would ask the FCC to step in and define who are trucks, high occupancy vehicles, and "ordinary" traffic. Unfortunately, I don't trust the policy wonks inside the FCC to make better decisions than the industry and consumers can make themselves. It is time for the consumer advocates, ISP and media industries to get together by self-regulating! The alternative is simply too gloomy for everyone - most of all consumers.

There is little doubt that diamond lanes in some form are going be everywhere in the broadband network. ISPs and consumers want a high quality “multimedia Internet” and they’re not going to get it unless those lanes go in. We already have it with the likes of U-Verse and FIOS TV systems. Europe has a number of other similar systems already in place.

Hollywood has a real dilemma. Do they want the pirates to gain access to these new high speed video lanes? Of course not. Then why aren’t they engaged in the policy discussions and a broader effort to insure fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory access to the “video lane” by helping define what net neutrality really means? I’ve posted InterStream's view on that policy (via a diagram), through a term of service agreement, previously. Approaches like that one neatly avoid anti-trust issues or forcing ISPs to step in and police the network for Hollywood. Stay tuned here for more on this topic…

Jeff Turner

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