Can sites violate net neutrality?

Can sites violate net neutrality?

Summary: In this case Comcast, which we have been hammering on here for throttling BitTorrent, is the innocent victim. Rather, you might argue its subscribers are. Or, you might argue its' competitors' subscribers are.


ESPN 360 logoFor the last year Disney's ESPN has been trying to bring the basic cable model to the Web, charging ISPs to let their subscribers deliver its ESPN360 service.

In this case Comcast, which we have been hammering on here for throttling BitTorrent, is the innocent victim. Rather, you might argue its subscribers are. Or, you might argue its' competitors' subscribers are. Read on.

In flogging the service in February, ESPN executives were quite explicit, claiming future growth for ISPs will depend "on the value of the content they offer."

So far  AT&T and Verizon, have jumped at the chance to make their services "better" than cable Internet, even at a price. Most cable companies are holding firm. In July ESPN claimed it had 30 deals.

So, is this a violation of net neutrality? If subscribers could buy their own subscriptions, at some price, I would see no problem. That's not being offered maybe because ESPN failed in this area with its Insider service.

Advocates for the phone companies insist this is a good thing, that ESPN360 would not exist without such "experimentation." What is in fact happening is phone companies are charging non-fans for something only fans want.

Will it work? There are already indications ESPN is hedging its bets, adding free access to colleges and the military, admitting in February it had streamed only 500,000 hours of programming.

Personally I'd be pissed if my ISP were charging me for something I wouldn't use, giving in to a site owner too lazy to manage subscriptions.

As mad as I am at my cable operator for doing essentially the same thing?

Topics: Mobility, Browser, Hardware, Networking, Telcos

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  • I would say .."not exactly"

    This isnt the same case of outright blocking (as we all know and have come to love Comcast for doing)...however this is adding a perceived "added-value" to an overpriced pipe. IF the ISP decided to tier this and add in a method of authorizing those who have paid for the special tier (or package even)- its no more than paying your cable or satellite operator for HBO/STARZ, et all.
    • That is another way of doing it...

      But they are using the basic cable model, not the HBO model. You pay whether or not you want it, just as Fox viewers today who hate CNN must pay for it and vice versa.
      • Which is sad...

        but not a lot you can do about it. Its kind of like Comcast here "value-adds" McAffee "Security" Suite...which IMHO sucks - apparently not to their bottom line. These companies should offer a level of service with out adding these "value-adds" to inflate their price. This would increase competition within the company as well. But again, not a whole lot you can do about it but other than complain (or switch to a competitor).
  • Just like Comcast has done for years

    Comcast recently added YES network to basic cable, so all subscribers end up paying for something a large percentage don't want. So why would they have anything to say about ESPN wanting to do the same thing to them?
    • Comcast has some real competition in video

      Comcast has serious competition from DirecTv for video, and that competition should cause it to want to limit the games it plays with Internet subs -- who might switch both services.
      • But only in video.

        Satellite TV is often very inferior to Cable, especially if viewers want local programming. When it comes to internet providers, the cable companies have it pretty much tied up, unless all the user needs is text email and can handle a telephone connection and a UNIX prompt. Graphics heavy web pages have made dial-up too slow for much else.

        It is a case of paying for satellite and paying for cable internet only, if cable companies allow that. Satellite internet is very expensive.
  • RE: Can sites violate net neutrality?

    Your ISP probably offers an Anti-Virus suite, or some kind of free music service, or some other 3rd-party service -- which is included in your service whether you use it or not.

    ESPN360 is not the Internet, its an end-point on the network. Network Neutrality is about the behavior of the Network.

    Since the world does not need another Network Neutrality definition, I'll propose this thought:

    Network Neutrality is the name given to a set of guiding principles designed to continue the Internet's interoperable, non-discriminatory, end-to-end processing tradition. The Internet (the routing and forwarding network) was originally neutral generally because it generally lacked any information or capability that would make it otherwise, and since "more speed" was the demand, improved hardware capabilities over time was usually spent delivering more speed (not more functionality like DPI).

    In recent years, network operators and network hardware manufacturers have been focusing less on speed improvements and more on services. As one might expect with any new and powerful technology, some of these uses are genuinely useful while others tend to be quite questionable and immature.

    Network Neutrality has to do with the network (the middle of the Internet) and how it behaves. It doesn't have anything to do with the choice of pre-installed applications or pre-set pages. Even though those aren't Network Neutrality issues, you're not on a bad track. Those are worthy considerations as well -- diversity is harmed if one kind of voice consistently gets pushed to the back of the magazine while another always gets the cover.

    Some of the reasons people support Network Neutrality are the very same reasons people would be concerned with the important issues that you are bringing.

    I hope that helps clear up the issue a little, and thanks.

    Robb Topolski
  • my isp all ready offers something like this but you have to opt in and

    my isp all ready offers something like this but you have to opt in and you pay for it as an extra service.
    they call it Best of the Web

    i don't use it i think it's worthless my self.
    and as long as i'm not charged for it i see nothing wrong with it.

    now when they do start charging everyone for it i will change isp's. but for a noob who does not know how to find their own content. it probably a good idea.

    i'm not a sports fan so i could care less about espn. i get pissed off that i am paying for so many channels of it with my cable sub even though i do not watch it.
    SO.CAL Guy
  • RE: Can sites violate net neutrality?

    "What is in fact happening is phone companies are charging non-fans for something only fans want."

    Precisely my complaint for years. I could give a rat's ass for sports and yet it is the most expensive programming they get. I want ala carte pricing and FREE if you only want C-Span!

    Terry Seale
  • Not just ESPN 360 - AT&T's full list of

    Broadband Extras
    ? ABC News Now
    ? Analysis
    ? Markets
    ? CNBC Plus
    ? Video
    ? Disney Connection
    ? ESPN 360

    AT&T's idea of something for everyone perhaps.

    In the meantime I'm willing to pay for my Setanta By Broadband (14.99/mo) account separately so I can get all the soccer matches I want to see. ESPN 360 doesn't carry Barclay's English Premier League. There's no way I could get them with Uverse TV either unless I was willing to pay for the Uverse 300 or 400 package (which I'm not), but only certain featured games. When are TV (IPTV, cable and satellite) providers going to get smart and offer true a la carte programming? I don't watch movies or programming intended for kids or a mostly female audience.

    And who needs local channels with access to OTA ATSC programming? It's a waste of 5.00/month for satellite, and I can't opt out with cable since it's mandated by law that cable must provide local channels, but not necessarily in HD.

    At least I have some choice with my AT&T broadband account. But I'll get no discount for not using Disney Connection or Soapnetic.
  • Why not charge "shopping channels"?

    Why am I being charged for "shopping channels" that Comcast "has to carry"? As far as I am concerned THEY (the shopping channels) should be subsidizing my service! THEY are the ones benefitting from their sales. If I have to tolerate ads on any subscription service then I demand a subsidy of the "take"!

    I tolerate ads on because I get something in return, and when it is something I am interested in I click on the ads. Fair is fair!