TV: the reason tech giants are sitting out the net neutrality debate

The streaming TV and placeshifting future we want requires a non-neutral Internet.

Per the New York Times:

Silicon Valley’s giant companies have been quiet lately on the question of whether the government should protect an open Internet, which they’ve previously argued is vital to innovation. Don’t count on them staking out a stronger position even though President Obama has stepped into the fray, and Washington looks to be gearing up for an epic battle over the rules that govern the Internet.

Why is this happening? One word: TV. Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all trying to revolutionize the world’s biggest broadcast medium. To do so, their UX must be equal to or better than incumbents’. Unfortunately, it isn’t right now. To watch ESPN on Comcast, for example, change the corresponding channel and you’re watching ESPN immediately. To do the same thing on a streaming service, there’s a multi-second wait while the video buffers. The problem worsens geometrically as as you switch among multiple channels.

There are 2 ways around streaming buffers. Option 1 is to constantly stream all channels to the end user, as cable and satellite do. That solution is prohibitively bandwidth intensive. Remember, users who subscribe to Comcast internet only are still limited to the bandwidth they pay for.  Just because you don’t use Comcast for TV doesn’t mean you get to use Comcast’s TV bandwidth. Ergo, streaming all channels all the time could easily exceed a user’s available bandwidth, not to mention their data cap.

A streaming TV provider could circumvent that problem by paying the cable company for use of their dedicated TV bandwidth, which is obviously a fast lane and non-neutral approach. It could also simply pay ISPs to implement global QoS policies that prioritize its traffic, which is exactly what net neutrality would preclude.

Option 2 is hyperlocal CDN – think CDN-At-The-Node (CDNATN*). All channels would be streamed to a neighborhood node, which then dispatches channels to users on request. Since content providers such as Netflix and YouTube already have CDNs collocated with ISPs, this isn’t out of the ordinary. However, the deployment cost scales geometrically, since streaming TV providers would have to install CDNATNs for every ISP in a given area.

Given the above, net neutrality is actually a threat to tech giants’ future business, hence their reluctance to get on the net neutrality bandwagon.

Another reason is the tech industry’s core business plan is monopoly creation, but Peter Thiel does a better job of explaining that.

*This is a hypothetical term I totally made up, but feel free to use it and credit me.

Author: jdrch

ISTJ, Rice Owl, UF Gator, mechanical engineer. STEM, sports, music, movies, humor. Account mine only & unaffiliated.


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