Apr 022013


A federal appeals court has handed a big setback to broadcasters trying to stop Aereo, a startup that streams New York-area television content over the Internet. Broadcasters such as Fox and Univision argued that transmitting TV content without permission was copyright infringement. But Aereo countered that its service was analogous to a television and DVR that happened to have a really long cable between the antenna and the screen. On Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed.

Aereos technology was designed from the ground up to take advantage of a landmark 2008 ruling holding that a “remote” DVR product offered by Cablevision was consistent with copyright law. Key to that ruling was Cablevisions decision to create a separate copy of recorded TV programs for each user. While creating thousands of redundant copies makes little sense from a technical perspective, it turned out to be crucial from a legal point of view. Because each copy was viewed by only one household, the court ruled that Cablevision was not engaged in a “public performance” of copyrighted works.

Aereos founders realized that the Cablevision ruling offered a blueprint for building a TV rebroadcasting service that wouldn’t require the permission of broadcasters. In Aereos server rooms are row after row of tiny antennas mounted on circuit boards. When a user wants to view or record a television program, Aereo assigns him an antenna exclusively for his own use. And like Cablevision, when 1000 users record the same program, Aereo creates 1,000 redundant copies.

READ MORE:  Appeals court upholds legality of Aereo’s “tiny antennas” scheme | Ars Technica.




Sep 122012

Cutting the cord is still an outlier activity. You have to do too much searching, use too many specialized devices, and configure too many settings to get what you want. But as devices from Google, Apple, Roku and others make internet delivery indistinguishable from cable and satellite delivery, we’re going to wake up one morning and find cord-cutting has gone completely mainstream. And those devices are pretty much already here.

All the advantages enjoyed by subscription TV today are melting away. In five years, those advantages will have been eliminated entirely. In a decade, many of today’s constraints will seem laughable. The idea that you had to pay for 400 other channels just because you wanted to watch a single show will be akin to paying for internet access by the hour.

Xfinity, Time Warner and their cohorts aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But while the cable company of tomorrow may provide the pipes, it’s certain that it won’t provide the plan. In short, subscription TV is already dead. The body just hasn’t quit twitching yet.

MORE:  Cable’s Walls Are Coming Down.


Aug 032012

Large numbers of US homes have dropped pay-TV services, with big losses for satellite provider DirecTV, and cable companies Time Warner and Comcast. Rounding up the latest quarterly earnings results issued by major TV providers, Reuters reported today that Comcast lost 176,000 subscribers, Time Warner lost 169,000 customers, and DirecTV lost 52,000.

While Reuters said these losses total about 400,000 American homes dropping pay-TV service since the beginning of the year, it’s still a small minority. Time Warner Cable has more than 12 million customers, for example, and many customers simply switched services, as Verizon’s FiOS TV and AT&T’s U-verse added 275,000 subscribers in the second quarter. The second quarter is traditionally weak because of people moving before summer and college students leaving campus.

But this quarter’s losses were stark for DirecTV, which lost customers for the first time ever, and for Time Warner, who lost customers for the tenth straight quarter and lost more than analysts expected.

MORE:  US homes drop pay-TV as DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner lose subscribers | Ars Technica.


Jul 272012

Google on Thursday detailed its high-speed Internet network called Google Fiber, which runs 100 times faster than today’s average broadband connection.

The search engine giant is bringing the ultra-high speeds first to Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo. In addition to offering two paid packages, Google is also rolling out a virtually free service for at least the first seven years. (Note: You still have to pay a $300 installation fee).

“No more buffering. No more loading. No more waiting,” the company notes on its blog. “Imagine: instantaneous sharing; truly global education; medical appointments with 3D imaging; even new industries that we haven’t even dreamed of, powered by a gig.”

To get things started, the company divided Kansas City into small communities called “fiberhoods.” Each fiberhood needs a high majority of their residents to pre-register to get the service. Those communities with a high pre-registration percentage will be among the first to get Google Fiber. Households in those communities can register for the service throughout the next six weeks.

Households in fiberhoods that qualify will be able to select from various subscription packages. Internet will cost $70 a month, while Internet along with television will cost about $120. The free Internet service (with the $300 installation fee) is also available for $25 a month for 12 months.

MORE:  Meet Google Fiber, the New Lightning-Fast Internet Network.


Jul 252012

Verizon has numerous reasons for wanting its DSL services to die off, including the fact that newer LTE technology is cheaper to deploy in rural areas and easier to keep upgraded. But one of the driving forces is that Verizon is eager to eliminate unions from the equation, given that Verizon Wireless is non-union. None of this is theory; in fact, it has been made very clear by Verizon executives.

“Every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam recently told attendees of an investor conference. “We are going to just take it out of service. Areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got LTE built that will handle all of those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there.”

In other words, Verizon will cut off copper in FiOS markets first (which makes sense given the lower maintenance costs of fiber). They’ll then leave users in DSL-only markets un-upgraded, forcing them to buy a costly landline so that remaining on Verizon DSL becomes less attractive. Those customers will flee to the same cable companies with which Verizon just signed a massive new partnership, with Verizon planning to sell those users more expensive LTE connections later. Verizon will continue to “compete” in FiOS areas for now, if you call winking and nodding when it’s time to raise prices competition.

Rural areas could see the biggest impact from the shift, as Verizon pulls DSL and instead sells those users LTE services at a high price point ($15 per gigabyte overages). Verizon then hopes to sell those users cap-gobbling video services via its upcoming Redbox streaming video joint venture. Expect there to be plenty of gaps where rural users suddenly lose landline and DSL connectivity but can’t get LTE. With Verizon and AT&T having killed off regulatory oversight in most states, you can expect nothing to be done about it—despite both companies having been given billions in subsidies over the years to get those users online.

via Op-ed: Verizon willfully driving DSL users into the arms of cable | Ars Technica.