Net Neutrality Friday

I will be covering two different things today. They are related to Net Neutrality but are not specifically Net Neutrality issues.

The first there is a recent report (HERE for a link) looking a bit deeper at the Netflix Speed Index and seeing what can be learned from it. My friends at Light Reading (HERE) have publicized the article and its findings. I thought I would throw in my 2 cents here for you. What the numbers point out is that there are a complicated series of things going on. There are clearly some specific issues with Comcast. There are also some issues with Netflix's network itself.

We have as users of this information two real issues. First we don't have validated facts from multiple sources and at multiple points from anyone. This means that at best we are relying on information from a single source and that source has a dog in this fight. On top of that we get only the data that is published and it has a single perspective on the issue. For the technologists involved it means that any conclusions that we draw are highly speculative. Second, we have no idea of service performance under any of these changes. By that I mean we can't tell if any of the wiggles in bandwidth meant anything to users in practice. Was there buffering or not? Was quality degraded or not? We have no way of tying anything as crude as a MOS (Mean Opinion Score - the way we have traditionally measured voice quality) added into the data. That means that we can't say the bandwidth impacts mattered to users. One would expect things to wiggle around a bit with changes in load, but it only matters if the customers thought it mattered.

I bring this to you as a way of giving you a perspective of an analyst in the industry and some other information.

The 2nd topic today is Aereo. You may have heard of them having a service that streamed OTA (Over The Air) broadcasts via the Internet to subscribers. They were told that their service was not valid because they did not pay retransmission fees. I think there are ways for Aereo to deal with this, but it looks like they are going to go ahead and pay those fees. In laymans terms, retransmission fees are required when a cable company wants to carry local channels. There is theoretically a consent that is required and the broadcaster can ask for some compensation. In practice, the cable company pays money for the consent.

This seems like a ruling that was well within the laws and rules as written. Aereo's argument was that they were not a cable company and were renting an antenna per subscriber. Given that Aereo owned all the equipment, it is hard for me to see how they were not a cable company. The relevant law does not talk about number of antennas, just the fact of reusing a local broadcast signal. I think the way around it would be to sell kit to the user that is an antenna and encoder and rent the user space/power for the service. But it looks like Aereo is just going to convert.

Have a great weekend one and all!

Jim Sackman
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