Why Net Neutrality is Safe. My Plan to Cut The Cord. Football. These ARE Linked Topics.

The government shutdown is all over but the shouting for now.  So I figured I’d write about football.  Actually, this is about Net Neutrality so bear with me for a bit.

I lived (quite happily) without a TV from 1995 until late 2011.  Mostly I was just too busy/lazy to hook up cable and then I just fell out of the habit.  The only thing I ever really missed was football.

When I moved to Berkeley, I proudly bought a 42 inch flat screen TV and set out to make up for lost time.  I quickly discovered that TV was even more of a wasteland then I remembered (more on that in a later post).  But I (grudgingly) kept the cable subscription for Internet, Sunday Football, and ESPN’s only-on-cable Monday night football.

However, we will be “cutting the cord” once we move into (Phase 1 of) our new home this December.  We’ll still probably use Comcast for Internet (DSL around us sucks and no Fiber).  For my (limited) video viewing needs, I’ll mix the following.

  • Over-the-air signals for the major networks.  I was looking at mounting a rooftop antenna, but think I can get away with one of these nifty new “Mohu” indoor ones.  http://store.gomohu.com/the-leaf-indoor-hdtv-antenna.html.  That takes care of live football/sports plus “national” events like the presidential debates.  All in better-than-cable-quality HDTV.
  • Netflix.  Not a subscriber yet, but I will be.  ‘Nuff said for now.
  • The NFL’s “Game Rewind” Internet Package. This is the killer app for me.  I can buy the full regular season for $40 bucks.  That gets me ALL the games (I can watch the Redskins again!).  I can’t watch live, but that is mostly a plus for me.  Especially as I can get the “condensed” games, which jam all the action into 30 minutes by cutting out huddles, commercials, etc.  Details of the NFL’s product are here.  This is the linchpin of my Net Neutrality argument below.   https://gamerewind.nfl.com/nflgr/secure/packages?ttv=1
    • (The condensed versions are/were produced for the US Armed Forces networks and overseas consumption – I used to watch them in Australia in the 90’s  They are weirdly frantic, but good fun to watch).
  • All of the above gets me 90% of what I want for the fraction of the cost of cable.  As for the other 10%, it was too much trouble to try and find it anyway.

So whoop-de-doo I’m going to cut the cord!  Why should you care?  What does it have to do with Net Neutrality?  Because it brings the NFL (and Major League Baseball and most other sports to follow) firmly on the side of maintaining a (reasonably) “open” internet.

  • Net Neutrality has been protected from the clumsy depredations of the Pipe-providers mostly by principled tech policy do-goodniks backed by principled Internet players like Google et al.
  • The big content players have been somewhat on the sidelines.  They have worked to block “walled garden” attempts to charge for content delivery, but in a conditional way.  You got the sense they were still trying to decide if it made sense to go along with “walled gardens” (creating a privileged position for their content but sharing revenues with the pipe providers), or fight for a pure over-the-top model.
  • This recent move by the NFL, Netflix’s move into original programming, etc tell me that the content industry has crossed the Rubicon in favor of over-the-top.  It certainly makes economic sense.  The NFL gets 100% of my $40 plus any ad revenues it can sell along with my viewing attention.  Why would they want to share that?
  • If there is one force more powerful in Washington than the Telco/Cable complex, it is the NFL (and MLB, and the Media in general).  They are going to fight tooth-and-nail to keep the Pipe providers from charging them to deliver that content.  They will also expose the lie of “they are using our bandwidth for free” by offering the Pipe companies local caching of that content (like Netflix is already doing).  Caching originates content locally and entirely within the providers owned network assets – so the cost to deliver is basically zero.  The pipe guys know that, they’ve just tried and keep Congress and the FCC from knowing it.

So I am not (that) worried about Net Neutrality.  You shouldn’t be either.  There will still be threats to the “open” internet (especially depending on how religiously you define “open”).  But the next round of battles will have more players with much greater influence/power  fighting to keep it open.  And that gives me comfort.

Now if only the Redskins were worth watching (grin).  I actually went to the Raiders Redskins game yesterday.  Great weather and awesome atmosphere.  Pretty bad football.  Sigh….

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