EU blow to net neutrality

Sadly the EU now has a net neutrality law that only pays lip service to the principle. The loopholes are so big that you can drive a bus through them. A Stanford Law Professor sums it up:

  1. Fast lanes for copmanies that pay for “specialized services” exception. That can be almost anything….
  2. Practically full permission to offer free bandwidth for specific services. This is often done by network companies offering their flavour of a content service, creating a non-level playing field for thirs parties.
  3. (lower priority) traffic classes slowing down even if there is no congestion. E.g. using erratic packet delays to avoid VOIP calls to boost use of expensive voice network provider services. Also encrypted traffic and peer-2-peer will likely suffer.

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There may be some opportunity to better define the loopholes. But practice is that the EU telecom companies won this one at the cost of competition and thus at the cost of the end-user.

Let’s end this one with the infamous Aldous Huxley Animal Farm quote: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.“.

Source: The European Parliament just dealt a major blow to net neutrality

Posted in OTT

DSTAG about navigation or security?

The DSTAG report is out and it is reflecting two views on how multiple devices could be used to access payTV services from MVPDs (large PayTV network operators). This article is a commentary on an excellent Jeff Baumgartner report on multichannel.com

The first is the “Allvid” approach: which proposes the concept of a central gateway that makes the services available throughout the home network including access to metadata so the device makes can aggregate services and build their own use interface. Independent video device makers and service aggregators support this. And there is something to be said in favor: what special UI requirements should there be in delivering a subscribed channel in a “standard” way including accompanying metadata, which does not mean there are no relevant new and possibly complex features in this domain, tying channel content to associated services like replay-tv, interactive services, catch up services, (N)PVR, interactive or targeted advertising etc.

The second is the “App” approach that proposes to simply use the downloadable application of new devices to make MVPD service bundles available: but simply through the UI of the MVPD. MVPDs and Hollywood is supporting this. It is simple and it works, and like it or not, brings MVPD content through their own UI on second screens.

It is interesting to see companies taking positions, of course lining up with their business interest as reflected in the featured article. Interesting is also the reducing role of security: it seems to be a given, and not playing the key rol in untying the lock that MVPDs have through control of the CA system: the Allvid concept uses a central gateway (with presumeably embedded CA/DRM), the “App” appproach is based on dvice resident and/or download software approaches. There are some comments from Verimetrix as to their proprietary downloadable CA approach and some comments from Nagra that downloadable CA is “good”.  But the real discussion is not on who controls the CA, it is on who controls the user interface.

Last of all thervidipathe is DLNA promoting Vidipath as a technology permitting content from a central gateway on any device in the home with the MVPD user interface: it can be swept under the “App” camp for all practical purposes: it may turn out to be useful negotiation candy.

What does this mean for downloadable CA: is it dead in the USA? It is now just a component of the bigger issue of whether 3’rd parties should be able to offer navigation service in conjunction with video services. That is also where Cablecard and downloadable CA originated; but these days the issue is transcending the originally dominating security system lock question.

There could be an interesting compromise in the MVPDs being forced to offer “allvid” style headless gateways to customers that request this. The gateway could support Vidipath as a means to offer the operator’s UI on any device as a standard option (not that Vidipath is running on all second screens but it seems that is what MVPDs would like the FCC to think).

headless gatewayHeadless gateways help creating a concept that can deal with various network technologies (cable, satellite, optical, IP etc.), but it has some issues: expensive for small installations, power hungry and raising the complexity of  system integration and interoperability. Also there are questions regarding the mandate of the FCC to rule about matters outside the conditional access. So maybe the “Allvid” camp is betting on the wrong horse and they could pay more attention to what Verimetrix and Nagra are saying and reconsider the focus on networking towards a more flexible interoperability approach.

 

 

 

 

Cloud DVR is better than a box

Cloud PVR has many advantages over box based PVR. The nscreemmedia article below mentions these:

  • Cloud storage does not break – so no loss of customer at that point.
  • Easy upgrade of features
  • Try before you buy marketing
  • Lower storage cost (especially if joint copies are permitted)

There are a few that may be even more important that seem to have been overlooked:

  • Smartphone programming while box is off
  • In-hone streaming (only the latest greatest in-home PVRs can transcode and decently stream over modest wifi)
  • Deployable on all basic boxes (no need to swap boxes)
  • Content search/navigation integration with other on-demand content services (catchup TV, replay-TV, SVOD etc)

cloud

Source: Four reasons cloud DVR is better than a box – nScreenMedia

Linear is dead, long live non-linear

The pundits are predicting it, and hard figures so far show a rise in non-linear video consumption; but that did not prove non-linear would finally dominate. And vested managers are suggesting it is “add on” to linear.

But now hard figures are emerging that in the Netherlands already more than 60% of video is watched non-linear. The age category difference is also there.

The end of the TV channel? Maybe, but the shift will be the biggest change in the TV industry the coming 5-10 years: that’s for sure.

Living in the Netherlands it is clear young people use PCs etc. to watch online content (lot of it illegal). Kids also use smartphones. They do not stream conventional TV channels, though that is available. And myself: moving to PVR mostly, tired of adds and not letting my time schedule be controlled by the program guide. Netflix is quite popular. Youtube also.

Source: 61% of Dutch viewing time is non-linear

Letter exchanges in FCC’s DSTAC

The FCC DSTAC Committee was created to define downloadable security as a replacement for CableCard. Only there is disagreement as to the scope. The MVPDs (cable, satellite and IPTV providers) want to keep their service offer preserved as one package under their UI (no service “disaggregation”). Device makers and proponents of alternative service models see things more broadly and are of the view that individual service elements should be presentable and searchable by other UIs etc. (called “service theft” by the MVPDs).  Both have written letters (see here and here) to outline their positions to the DSTAC chairman.

Given that the cable card mandate will dissolve end 2015 the MVPDs are not under pressure. If the committee is to deliver (significant) recommendations to the FCC by September 4 it will be a tall order to define a truly open system given the MVPD opposition.

History is also on the side of the MVPDs. They “prevailed” in their strategy to effectively monopolize the user interface used to access their services (as an integrated offer) so far; starting back in 2003 with POD. The only thing that has seriously dented that has been the rise of smartphones, tablets and PCs – though MVPDs have been able to promulgate their service access UI to those devices now. And maybe analogously an open network infrastructure and competition in service offers (e.g. OTT) will be more effective than more regulation on proprietary networks. Which does not mean downloadable security does not have a place: the more open the service market the more important the role of downloadable security could be.

Source: Group to FCC: Avoid ‘Walled-Garden’ Approach to Video | Multichannel