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Net Neutrality: I am totally lost!

Last night, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 56-31. The game was not available on any broadcast networks, but it was touted as being available on ESPN360.com. I assumed this was some sort of pay per view thing and at 7:30 pm, I was ready to pay to watch the game. So I went to ESPN360.com and checked out all the available videos and in-progress games that were available. Sure enough, the Georgia Tech game was prominently featured.

I clicked on the game and was very surprised to see a message indicating that my Internet service provider did not carry ESPN360.com. What the heck is that all about? Apparently, The Disney Company, owner of the ESPN properties, has forayed into pay model for ESPN360.com similar to what is in place for cable networks. Your ISP has to pay a certain price per subscriber in order to view content on that site. I was immediately reminded of the feud going on between DirecTV and Comcast over the Versus channel. DirecTV’s argument is that not many of their subscribers actually watch Versus (although I routinely did) and that they were essentially subsidizing the network by paying a fee on behalf of the majority of their subscribers who did not watch the channel.

I thought the whole point of the Internet was to provide unfettered access to all of the Internet’s content. If a company on the endpoint wanted to charge a subscription to those who signed up, more power to them. But forcing an ISP to pay based on # of subscribers is simply unreasonable and in the long term unsustainable. Recently, this image began floating around the net – and it could be a sign of things to come:

I thought I was against the type of thing ESPN360.com is doing until I saw this article -> ACA To FCC: Restrict Models Like ESPN360. Now I don’t know where I stand. On the one hand, I don’t trust the cable companies because they’ve have been screwing me with the above model for years. Ultimately, I’d like a la carte programming so that I could pick what channels I want, get a price, and move on. However, I end up with all these lousy channels that I never watch, simply because I wanted to get Discovery Channel, etc. On the other hand, perhaps the government is to blame for this mess with their regulation of the cable television industry and the cable companies are standing up to say “No – please, not again.”

At the moment, I agree with the ACA article for the reasons they cite. This is something we all need to pay attention to over the coming months and years as the Federal government continues to discuss their proposals for net-neutrality.

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