Are cable operators trying to stifle the distribution of video over the Internet?
I don’t think so. But the notion that the industry is trying to protect its core TV product by imposing certain restrictions on broadband users certainly has legs.
The idea popped up last year when Comcast was accused of trying to inhibit Internet video by throttling back peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent. (The MSO has since moved to a usage-based technique.)
Now the anti-cable crowd is firing the same allegation against Time Warner Cable, which is planning to test usage-based billing in four markets this year.
Free Press, in announcing a petition drive to gather signatures to call on Congress to “investigate” TWC’s plans, said that “many see this as an attempt to stifle the emerging online video market — a competitive threat to Time Warner Cable’s television service.”
NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow, for one, is tired of this argument.
In a blog posting today in which he labels the Free Press petition drive a publicity stunt, McSlarrow says the notion that cable companies are being protectionist vis-a-vis Internet video distribution is “stale” and “at odds with the facts.”
“[I]t is somewhat tiresome to have Free Press repeatedly assert that every effort by network providers to examine any new approach or idea in our or related industries is somehow designed to protect against the supposed ‘threat’ of ‘Internet video,’” McSlarrow wrote.
His evidence? McSlarrow points out that cable companies are actually looking at new ways to bring Internet video to TVs and he noted that online video usage — via YouTube in particular — has surged over the last few years.
Obviously, that isn’t going to be enough to dissuade disgruntled consumers and anti-cable bloggers that TWC’s bandwidth-pricing schemes are anything other than pricing gouging (LA Times), an attempt to discourage Internet-video usage (GigaOm), or both.
Hey, if I had been getting unlimited gas refills at my local station and they decided to switch to selling by the gallon — I’d be pissed, too. (Indeed, last summer’s soaring gas prices generated a huge consumer backlash.)
The incontrovertible fact is that it’s always hard to take away something customers feel they’re entitled to.