Fox’s decision to cut off access to its online programming to Cablevision subscribers shows that “the current generation of dominant content and content delivery networks are trying to control the next,” Public Knowledge told the FCC in a letter filed today. The text of the letter is here.
The incident shows that programmers “are willing and able to limit their online content only to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who are willing to ‘pay to play,’” PK said, citing cases of NBC blocking Olympics coverage, the “TV Everywhere” scheme and Hulu blocking of Boxee, Kylo and Google TV.”
While these types of actions are not “network neutrality” as precisely understood because they were conduct inflicted on an ISP rather than by an ISP, the actions “could threaten the integrity of the open Internet as much as anti-competitive behavior by telecommunications providers. Accordingly, incidents such as these should be investigated by the FCC, FTC, Justice Department, or other agencies, according to their jurisdiction,” PK said.
PK said that the FCC must address the issue on two levels. One level is the Comcast purchase of NBC, which could generate “more, and more damaging, retransmission consent and online video disputes.” On a second, broader level, PK said the FCC has to “address the overall problem of media consolidation that allows a single commercial dispute between two companies to deprive millions of consumers of programming and impacts the evolution of the open internet ecosystem.” The FCC has allowed consolidation in programming, broadband and video-distribution markets on the theory that the Internet would provide competition to existing systems.
However, PK said, “As the Fox/Cablevision dispute illustrates, rather than the Internet providing the cure to media consolidation, the few remaining media conglomerates can – and will – leverage their off-line market power to control the distribution and evolution of online media.”
PK said: “The Commission should not view Fox’s blocking of Cablevision customers, as a one-of- a-kind occurrence. Rather, it is a sign of things to come, unless the Commission reexamines its media ownership, merger, and retransmission consent policies.”
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.