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New Rockefeller Bill Tries to Help Internet Video Succeed
by Karl Bode 02:24PM Tuesday Nov 12 2013
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is introducing new legislation aimed at making it easier for online video providers to disrupt the traditional cable sector. As we've seen time and time again from countless companies, including Sony, Microsoft, Google, Intel and Apple -- disruption of the broadband TV space can be hard when the industry's gatekeepers intentionally work together to make licensing content difficult, if not impossible.

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Rockefeller's new bill, The Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, would afford Internet video upstarts the same rights to programming provided cable companies under the 1992 Cable Act. While the exact language of the bill won't be public until later today, a statement being circulated to the media claims the bill would allow consumers to "benefit from online video's promise of decreased costs, increased choice, and higher-quality video content."

The bill also tries to more specifically ban coordinated, anti-competitive behavior against Internet video companies. Examples include Time Warner Cable's odd admission that it had been paying some broadcasters a premium to keep their content off of competing Internet video services.

The Act would also apply some of the regulations from the 1992 Cable Act on to smaller upstarts, something that could decrease the bill's already dim chances of success depending on the precise wording of the bill.

"We have all heard the familiar complaint that we have five hundred channels, but there is nothing to watch," Rockefeller said in a statement. "My legislation aims to enable the ultimate a la carte -- to give consumers the ability to watch the programming they want to watch, when they want to watch it, how they want to watch it, and pay for only what they actually watch."

Rockefeller's bill also vaguely addresses the use of caps and overages to thwart Internet video, urging the FCC to "monitor broadband billing practices to make sure they are not used anti-competitively." So far the use of usage caps anti-competitively, or the fact that many usage cap meters aren't accurate, has generally been ignored by regulators.

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telcodad
Premium
join:2011-09-16
Lincroft, NJ
kudos:15

1 edit

Some more details

FYI - Some more details (as is known now) on this bill can be found in this article on the Multichannel News site today:

Rockefeller Unveils Over-the-Top Video Reform Bill
Would apply Cable Act satellite competition protections to online video providers

By John Eggerton, Multichannel News - November 12, 2013
»www.multichannel.com/retransmiss···l/146633

EDIT: Press release from the Democratic Press Office: »www.commerce.senate.gov/public/i···594c7f7a

telcodad
Premium
join:2011-09-16
Lincroft, NJ
kudos:15

Re: Some more details

An article on the Ars Technica site today with more info on this (now submitted) bill:

Bill would make it illegal for ISPs to slow down online video services
Data caps and deceptive pricing would also be regulated by proposed law.
By Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica - November 13, 2013
»arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013···ervices/
YDC

join:2007-11-13
Hewlett, NY

A La Carte is Good and Evil

We all have heard the arguments for the buy what you want cable. It would work if we didn't pay so much money to support sports channel programming as part of our regular packages.

Right now, two thirds of the money we pay (outside of profit) is to support sports programming. If the tables were turned then sports networks would be so expensive that it would not be possible to sustain. Several networks would fail.

Now on the positive side, regular and sports networks would have to hold their own to survive, so we might just be able to find something to watch other than "reality tv". Wouldn't it be great if we actually had some real shows again?

Also, it would be nice if we didn't have to support network TV with retransmission fees. Who ever thought that thing up? Not the cable companies, and not the consumer obviously. That leaves the... broadcasting networks! The same ones who cannot even get a real series on TV anymore. Time they lost their cookies too!

Just my two cents.. Why do we need to support them if we don't get anything back..
plwww

join:2009-07-02
Live Oak, CA

Re: A La Carte is Good and Evil

I don't know as the sports networks really would be so expensive as to risk failing. I think, rather, we would end up with sending the revenue decrease further upstream. The sports channels pay the leagues for broadcast rights, money which then flows out to teams, and then to players. Think of the multi-million dollar a year contracts that pro sports players receive. I think it's fair to say that the professional sports industry could absorb some significant revenue cuts. Really, the same goes for most of the Television and Movie industry.

intok

join:2012-03-15
You say that like it's a bad thing. Sports is way over emphasized by the networks as it is, I have no problem with them being moved to their own channel/s.

Theres a very large portion of the populace that does not care in the least about sports. There should be a set of sports channels that carry all televised sports to everywhere in the country, no blackouts or the like. Just sports whenever theres any kind of televised game on and if theres no games on run sports commentary and history shows.

Doing this would show the true value or lack there of of sports. Because most people are casual fans at best, thus they only watch a part of a gamer here and there but don't care much at all unless their team makes it far into the playoffs.

I'm not a big sports fan myself, but the few things I do like aren't always on TV, Instead of Football, Basketball and Nascar none of which I care much at all about I instead am a casual fan of stuff like Motocross, Mixed Martial Arts and rally car racing. Do I follow these sports heavily and can I tell you much of anything about any of the fighters or drivers? No, but if theres nothing else on I'll throw one of the on the 2nd monitor to see whats up while I rad the news or play a game that doesn't require my full undivided attention I.E. turn based like a JRPG or Dungeons of Dredmor.
--
You think theres no games for Linux? »desura.com »gameolith.com »humblebundle.com »playdeb.net »ubuntuvibes.com

Check out »youtube.com/user/TheBigPictureRT/videos »freespeech.org and »democracynow.org

Probitas

@teksavvy.com

1 recommendation

Good luck with this

It's a nice fresh breeze in a stale room, let's see how long the window is left open before cable bricks it over. You think maybe he wants a donation to his re-election fund? Like where's MY pay-off/donation?
Alphasite

join:2005-07-27
Plano, TX

Re: Good luck with this

said by Probitas :

It's a nice fresh breeze in a stale room, let's see how long the window is left open before cable bricks it over. You think maybe he wants a donation to his re-election fund? Like where's MY pay-off/donation?

Rockefeller announced back in January that he isn't running for re-election.
elefante72

join:2010-12-03
East Amherst, NY

Re: Good luck with this

Maybe they should concentrate in getting broadband deployed in WVa first. What good is a bill if you still have dialup? Frontier is not exactly state of the art in WVa.

Kilroy
Premium,MVM
join:2002-11-21
Saint Paul, MN

1 recommendation

Too Pro Consumer

I can't see this going anywhere, unfortunately. Especially anything that would stop the cable ISPs from implementing caps to essentially make any other changes worthless.
--
"Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something." - Robert A. Heinlein

newview
Ex .. Ex .. Exactly
Premium
join:2001-10-01
Parsonsburg, MD
kudos:1

1 recommendation

We need to support this bill

I just contacted my two elected Maryland senators. asking that they support this bill.

You might want to consider doing the same.

Contact Your Elected Representatives

C0deZer0
Oc'D To Rhythm And Police
Premium
join:2001-10-03
Tempe, AZ

Re: We need to support this bill

Done, and Done.

Heck, as it is even when I am able to justify signing up for TV service again, I would hope this bill also enables it to be easier for me to just get the cablecard, the settings I need to program a tuner to use it, and get the channels we want to watch and be done with it. As it is it's already annoying how most TV providers want to set you up with a power-sucking box for $$/month (plus the cost of the box running - many of which are so power-hungry they alone would use more power than a 70" plasma and home theater system!), when a single CableCARD plus an appropriate tuner could give me far more flexibility in watching and recording the channels I want to watch, so I could watch my shows when I want to, and how I want to.
--
Because, f*ck Sony
tmc8080

join:2004-04-24
Brooklyn, NY
Reviews:
·ooma
·Optimum Online
·Verizon FiOS

what if?

imagine the traditional cable tv model had no choice but to die and you had to get your video services over broadband? would the providers be able to make it happen? as you can imagine the answer is NO. unless "cable" providers are forced into evolving their business model (which means tripling down on broadband deployment and using MORE fiber optic strands per customer from end to end), they will keep right on forcing rate hikes(and collecting ever higher set-top box, and taxes/surcharges) onto subscribers and destroying demand for their NON-ESSENTIAL service.

just about the ONLY thing standing in the way of Directv and DishNetwork losing MILLIONS of customers is the lack of competition in and among the last mile ISP providers which encompass the geographies left behind by incumbents... and the majority of that blame goes to AT&T, CenturyTel with a side order of Comcast & Time Warner.

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Careful with your wishes..

"benefit from online video's promise of decreased costs, increased choice, and higher-quality video content.

I can see increased choice and higher quality content but I don't see a decreased cost over all. I think they will find a way to make even more money by charging by the show and not by the channel. If you have a package for 10 stations @ $15/mo today and there are about a dozen shows you like they could hit you for 12 shows @ $1.99 each.
--
I do not, have not, and will not work for AT&T/Comcast/Verizon/Charter or similar sized company.

RRedline
Rated R
Premium
join:2002-05-15
Attleboro, MA

Re: Careful with your wishes..

said by battleop:

I can see increased choice and higher quality content but I don't see a decreased cost over all. I think they will find a way to make even more money by charging by the show and not by the channel. If you have a package for 10 stations @ $15/mo today and there are about a dozen shows you like they could hit you for 12 shows @ $1.99 each.

It's going to be offset by advertising. The same excessive, intrusive advertising that we are subjected to now with traditional television.
--
One nation, under Zod!

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: Careful with your wishes..

No, they will charge you $1.99, include adds, and product placements.

RRedline
Rated R
Premium
join:2002-05-15
Attleboro, MA

Re: Careful with your wishes..

said by battleop:

No, they will charge you $1.99, include adds, and product placements.

It really is going to end up getting worse. What people love most about services such as Netflix (besides the low cost) is that there is no advertising. Eventually, the selection will get much, much better, but the experience overall is going to get much, much worse.

Maybe they will offer higher priced tiers will less advertising, but I wouldn't count on it. At least now, with DVR's, you can skip through commercials. That's not going to be possible in the future once everyone gets all of their content from a cloud. There will even be commercial interruptions during movies. It's coming.
--
One nation, under Zod!

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: Careful with your wishes..

NBC has some on demand content on Directv that wont allow you to fast forward.
TheRogueX

join:2003-03-26
Springfield, MO
We're not talking about Hulu Plus, you know.
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

1 recommendation

If people could pay $15 for the 10 channels they wanted today, then I doubt we'd have a need for this bill. Hell, give me 10 for $20, and I might bite, provided they'd dump the "reality" bullshit and actually air the kinds of programming they originally set out to air (Discovery=science/technology/nature, History=history, Sci-Fi=real sci-fi and not this paranormal junk, TLC=educational shows, Arts & Entertainment=indie/arthouse films, etc.).

mixdup

join:2003-06-28
Birmingham, AL
Reviews:
·Charter

Um, ok

Not sure what this is going to accomplish. The Congressman is acting as if the content providers are just clamoring to line up for online services but the mean old cable companies won't let them. But a few facts are in the way:

1. A lot of major cable channels are owned by cable companies (Liberty/Malone controlled, Comcast, DirecTV). Equal access *might* help here, but it's only going to be on the same terms as a regular cable company, so how exactly does that lower prices or enable "new" Netflix-style viewing options?
2. Unless they outlaw usage caps completely, it is a non-starter. They can say "you must be fair to OTT video providers" but if they universally apply data usage caps to all usage, then they are being "fair" as far as the law would be concerned
3. Just about every cable company has a most favored nation clause in their contracts, so an online provider won't get the content any cheaper or without required bundling any sooner than Comcast or Time Warner or DirecTV. Any reforms that would meaningfully help an over the top provider will also help the incumbents
4. Even if somehow they were able to pass a law that made caps illegal or otherwise not an issue, the cable and telephone companies still control the price of the pipe into the home. There is no economic way that an over the top provider could ever possibly offer the service cheap enough to overcome that. The cable companies will always be able to bundle, and you will always need a pipe into your home. Since the cable companies will pay the same price as any newcomers, there's no way to make that pricing work in a way that would favor the newcomer.
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

Re: Um, ok

They can use antitrust regulations to decouple any cable company from being also a media company. This will boost competition. I.e. they will become dummy pipes which they are supposed to be, like electricity and gas providers.

mixdup

join:2003-06-28
Birmingham, AL

Re: Um, ok

Ok, hold your breath until that happens. Hope you look good in blue.
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

Re: Um, ok

I said they can. It doesn't mean they will. But it looks possible in theory, since the current situation is clearly monopolistic. How is it even legal?
axus

join:2001-06-18
Washington, DC
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: Um, ok

The Constitution implements copyright as a monopoly, that's how it's legal. And Congress legally extended the copyright term to monstrous duration.

Oh, you meant cable+media companies? They compete with each other and satellite, there's some kind of competition going on. But not enough.
shmerl

join:2013-10-21

Re: Um, ok

They don't compete with each other over the usage of the same cable (unless they share it somehow). They compete with streaming services though, but they have an unfair advantage of owning the cable itself. I think decoupling these only makes sense.

For example in case of electricity companies, the was some antitrust regulation about decoupling providers (those who sell energy which they produce by various means), from those who deliver (essentially cable companies).
plwww

join:2009-07-02
Live Oak, CA
said by axus:

The Constitution implements copyright as a monopoly, that's how it's legal.

The constitution only grants Congress the ability to grant exclusive copyrights; it doesn't actually demand a particular implementation of copyright(neither duration nor extent). Congress retains the right to determine how copyright holders may use their copyrights. Nor does the "exclusive" rights to a particular content allow them to engage in business practices that are otherwise immoral(collusion and price-fixing).

mixdup

join:2003-06-28
Birmingham, AL
Reviews:
·Charter
The problem is that it's not entirely monopolistic. Comcast owning NBC is, somewhat, but NBC doesn't own a majority of the channels. Comcast doesn't own a majority of the cable systems, and DirecTV and Dish compete with Comcast in every market.

None of that matters because no online provider will ever get a better deal that Comcast or TWC or Charter or DirecTV on the content, so how could they ever compete on price? Everyone acts like the internet is magical and makes money no longer a thing that exists or is necessary, but the content providers have just as much reason to prevent someone from blowing up the system as does the cable companies.
Rob_
Premium
join:2008-07-16
Mary Esther, FL
kudos:1

Data Caps

Will this remove the data caps?

Doubt it.

-Rob

NoCommercial

@comcast.net

It's time to ditch that 1970 cable box...

Xfinity Internet, Amazon Instant Video and a Roku box are my new triple play.
plwww

join:2009-07-02
Live Oak, CA

If they must try something...

If it copies legislation that has already worked for other distribution modes(cable/satellite), then I hope it passes as it could help to decouple video service from a particular ISP, ensuring smaller ISP's could compete against the "triple play" providers more easily.

I'm not sure it would really address the content and competition issues though. Decent cable service is too expensive for a wide swath of the public with the "best" channels reserved for the most expensive tiers, fully out of reach of most families. The most desirable content is effectively walled off from the lower incomes by requiring you purchase all of the worst channels to get a few of the best. We have numerous provider options, typically a minimum of 4 providers(one cable, one telephone, and two satellite), yet packages remain outrageous. Simply putting streaming video services on equal footing with cable and satellite is a step forward, but not a solution to the problem.

If Congress really wants to address the inaccessible costs and lack of competition, they need to focus on the fact what is needed isn't competition between delivery systems, but competition between content itself, and exposure of that competition to the viewer. This is difficult under the scheduled-programming model of traditional channels, but that model is dying: After all, what are the big selling points used in modern advertisements for Cable packages? Multi-channel DVR's for timeshifting, and on-demand selections. It would be great if IPTV services were on the same footing as other providers, but technology is forcing that more than Congress ever will. Not by moving live-programming to the web, but by moving the on-demand web video model to cable systems. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean the competition and cost problems will go away, they will just adapt to the on-demand world through exclusive licensing(ensuring you must have multiple subscriptions to view the most desirable content) or linking on-demand access to traditional channel-subscriptions preserving the "tier" bundling model.

The solution I would like to see(which has no chance at the moment, but I would love to see it at least proposed in Congress), is for Congress to acknowledge that there is absolutely no need for the scheduled-programming model anymore(concerning cable systems, not broadcast) and demand that all copyrighted content that is commercially distributed be available to all providers at a common, per-impression cost. To respect copyright ownership, the cost per impression would be set exclusively by the copyright owner. This would ensure that it is the content itself that competes.