I’ve often postulated here that the cable guys are feeling threatened by streaming video. New web only original programming is becoming more common, and is taking some viewers from their closed systems. They’ve been heavy handed about “managing bittorrent” claiming it consumed 80% of its capacity to deliver illicit content. Not only is the claimed 80% out of line with reality, but the fact is legitimate programming from services like Revision3 and Joost are delivered via bittorrent and traffic is growing as more viewers discover them. In the last year, the cable guys’ premium content providers have begun to offer ad supported streams free to anyone with broadband access. People like consuming content on demand as opposed to on a schedule, prior success of the VCR and Tivo proves it. With greater convenience, more programming will eventually find a larger audience. With content going directly from producer to consume , the long term viability of the closed content distribution system model is not viable. In other words, the cable guys’ 150 channel set top box business will be on life support soon.
Naturally, the cable guys are not going down without a fight. While publicly, they have stated network management and tiered service levels are needed to evenly distribute scarce resources, it’s only a small part of the bigger picture:
….given the fact that the company (Comcast) previously promised that it only managed traffic during times of congestion, only to have those claims disproved, we might have to take the term “network congestion” with a grain of salt. Also unsettling is the fact that the company hasn’t revealed any further details about what constitutes a high-bandwidth user and how limited those users will be during times of congestion. If Comcast chooses to roll out this type of technology, it will have to be upfront with its customers about what the exact limitations are. And given the company’s secrecy throughout the Bit Torrent fiasco, I wouldn’t hold my breath for that kind of transparency.
So, we’ve established that while technically “neutral,” both Time Warner and Comcast’s new network management techniques are not without their share of issues. There is still, however, one very large elephant left in the room: the fact that both Comcast and Time Warner are cable television providers. And as we all know, despite the industry’s constant invocation of the P2P bogeyman, at present, the largest bandwidth hog is actually streaming video. Clearly, the emergence of online video is something that cable video providers find very threatening and by capping off bandwidth usage, they’re effectively killing two birds with one stone; discouraging users from using their Internet connections for video while increasing the efficiency of the network. Is this anti-competitive? It sure seems like it. But is it anti-neutral? Technically, no. While Time Warner and Comcast both deliver video and Internet service via the same pipe, the two services live on separate networks. (Public Knowledge)
I am sorry to repeat myself so often, but if the cable guys had any real competition, none of this would be happening.