Net Neutrality Friday

As a follow up to last week's news, there has been action on the Aereo front. The Copyright Office has issued an opinion that it doesn't think Aereo is a Cable Company. Okay, that is not the Courts ruling anything yet but might confuse folks. There is a special section of copyright law assoicated with Cable Companies. All the content that gets broadcasted is copyrighted (or at least lots and lots of it are). To simplify things, there is an exception to copyright law to make it simple to not have to get consents all the time when some new broadcast happens.

The deadline for commentary on the Net Neutrality Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) is upon us. Thank goodness. The rhetoric is flying and there are some pieces coming in from some of the heavyweights in the debate. I have no idea what will happen as a final result, but many people will not be happy no matter what happens.

I wanted to add on this a bit of information about mobile and Internet Access. The IP stack that is used in Cell Phones is different than that used on a Land Line or WiFi. That is to allow the phone to move between cells and keep the same IP address. If we use a phone analogy, think of it the same way that a Cell Phone has to keep the same phone number no matter where it is located. I have a friend that has an Atlanta Area Code Cell Phone (404) but lives in Sonoma County. It is a bit more difficult with Mobile Internet because the location can change in the middle of a transaction. The way that works is that a Cell Phone actually connects to the Cell Carrier who in turn hands the Cell Phone off to the Internet. From an Internet perspective, your phone is always behind the Cell Carrier.

The reason that this is important is that you can see that it makes it more costly for Cell Companies to run Internet Data around. There are not a lot of these handoff points. That is why you generally have a lot more limits and a lot more cost for Mobile Internet than you do for Fixed Internet service. Given the growth in Mobile Data, you need to keep that in the forefront of your mind when you think about Fast Lanes or more accurately higher levels of service quality.

If video is a problem in the fixed world it is even a bigger challenge in the mobile one. I doubt I will spend any time on my cell with Netflix but I know people do. I generally use my tablet over WiFi for Netflix. I can tether my tablet to my phone, but it is a rare case where I do it. Younger people are more phone focused and my son regularly watches videos on his phone. I think its a generational thing.

One other thing to think about with mobile video. Given the small screen sizes, the amount of bandwidth required for a high definition picture is a lot smaller than on a TV. But the bandwidths are much more limited as well. The reality is that the basic science behind wireless, cable, fiber optic and twisted pair copper transmission is all the same. We are propogating electro-magnetic waves through a medium from a transmitter to a receiver. The worst transmission medium is the air (aka wireless). The best today is fiber optic. The science in this area is almost 100 years old and the technology about 50 years old. What we have been able to do is add more processing at a lower cost to improve communications. But the rules that have been written around this by Shannon and Nyquist have not changed.

Have a great weekend!

Jim Sackman
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