Thursday, June 19, 2008

ISPs and the music industry

In this article, Ars takes a stab at point out why an ISP would want to get into bed with a media company.
Of course, it's all about the money. In this case the money comes from one place -- subscribers. The ISPs want to put music on their networks exclusively, and charge through the nose for it. This is one of the things that could destroy the idea of a neutral Internet. For a neutral Internet to happen ISPs have to become dumb pipes. There really is no exception. For true network neutrality, one ISP cannot receive exclusive deals that another does not have similar access to. A similar comparison would be the iPhone's exclusivity on AT&Ts network. If you want an iPhone, you have to go to AT&T, no (legal under the DMCA) exceptions. There's no problem with that, really, it's just circumstance. However the problem that can arise is that to get that iPhone, you have to plan to sacrifice either 2 years or $200 to AT&T. View that through the lens of media and it becomes clear that an exclusive deal between an ISP and a movie or music company could turn out to be more nefarious than an early termination fee, or having your entire DRM'd collection of media suddenly not work.
The big thing with ISPs these days is to try and get into your head so that they can force and replace advertisements on the websites that you visit. Falling revenue streams are forcing ISPs to concern themselves less and less with legalities, privacy, customer concerns and worst of all, the Internet itself. Where then would exclusive media deals lead?
Imagine a world where competing ISPs who have competing media distribution deals are forced to come up with new ways to generate profits. Aside from raising subscription fees, which is easy to imagine, will soon happen every quarter, the only other option is to tighten the reigns on what the users of the ISPs are allowed to do. ISPs, cocooned in the idea that exclusive deals are the way to go will start down the road to the past, forcing themselves to look more and more like the AOL of the early 90's. (Meanwhile, those 'exclusive partnerships' between ISPs and media companies simply become 'branded deals' as the media companies realize ISPs are on a sinking ship.)
It won't take long for ISPs to realize that users are finding ways around the walled garden Internet provided them. The ISPs will suggest, then force, then petition Congress to allow ISPs to deny access to the Internet and their services unless users install software that cripples the Internet to the ISPs will, prevents media piracy, and reports all activity for monitoring, and Ad targeting.
If this sounds like a "Slippery Slope", that's because it is. But this one doesn't suffer from the fallacy of lack of truth. ISPs are gearing up to only allow access to authorized services already (they say that its only packet shaping and bandwidth management, but also hint at piracy prevention). Simply imagine what they would implement when profit motives and losses can't be measured by simple numbers like bandwidth, but instead rely on the notoriously devious "loss" numbers from the likes of the RIAA, MPAA and BSA.
For further proof, here is a link to exactly what I'm talking about. Entire sections of the Internet being blocked by ISPs. Of course, that is being done to "protect the children." How long before the proposed "G-rated" internet becomes law -- to protect the children?
So, here's the deal -- loosely. ISPs should only be able to enter into non-exclusive deals with any media, or advertising company. If one ISP gets a deal, they all get the option to sign up. This could create some complications, but no one ever said business was easy. The "Perfect Storm" is brewing just off the coast of Internet Neutrality, and we need to brace for impact.

Advertising Free Zone could help advertisers? You bet.

I saw this today, and though what a great idea... for everyone! Found on BoingBoing, original is Here.
Mass advertising is restricted. Billboards are categorically banned; advertising in subways, buses, removed. Towns take up "Advertising-Free Zones."
Think about if this actually happened. At first blush it seems like a really bad deal for anyone trying to advertise. However, looking into the future of such a situation, called the long tail on the Internet, It becomes clear that reducing the amount of advertising space available will increase the value of it. This is called scares goods. A long time ago, advertisers had what is revered to as a captive audience. If you were watching television and an ad came on, there wasn't much of an option for avoiding it. Ditto for the first few years of the Internet. Now, the Internet, and your local commute are starting to look like Times Square. There are lots of people who aren't happy about that.
This brings us to the discussion. How can restricting advertisements actually help the advertisers such as the cola companies and car manufacturers? Lets assume that the downtown areas of a large metropolis is an Ad-Free zone. While there is a loss for the advertisers there, that first billboard on the way out of downtown is going to be one of the highest visibility Ads in the city. The shock of leaving the Ad free zone and seeing that first Ad on the way out could certainly boost your awareness of the product. The cost of that single billboard may be higher, but without putting ads on every street downtown the cost may actually be less. So, maybe an Ad free zone would be a good thing. Maybe it's an idea whose time has come.

The FCC and the 400 pound cat
Today seems to be all about communication. Red Lion what?!

Red Lion, as I learned today, is a decision made by the Supreme Court that falls in lock-step with the defunct Fairness Doctrine. You may remember from a few months back that several left-wing groups stated beating the grass, in hopes that they could raise enough ire amongst the people and force the FCC to re-adopt the Fairness Doctrine. Why? The left was desperately afraid of AM radio, which then, as now, was ruled buy the center-to-right wingers.

What's happening in this story, is that there are several "pro-family" groups that want the Supreme Court to leave the Red Lion decision alone. The Supreme Court is discussing how best to address the FCCs Fleeting Explicative rules and as they do so, the Court may come to realize that the way that the FCC has been handing out fines reveals that either the FCC doesn't know how to enforce a policy, or is biased as hell towards some broadcasters.

Red Lion is brought up because these Puritanical Nanny groups are worried that if the Court looks too closely at the powers that the FCC has they'll realize that it is too powerful, and it wields those powers in a manner that's completely disconnected from reality, and out of line with the will of the people. The thing is, these groups are smart enough to realize that as the world moves away from television entertainment, the powers of the FCC should grow smaller and smaller.

They worry that the Supreme Court will see the FCC for the house of cards that it is. For example, the Children's Television Policy (which mandates child friendly or educational programming) is based on the Red Lion case that these groups are so worried about. The Red Lion case was won because, at the time, the Fairness Doctrine was still enforced. These interest groups know exactly how poorly constructed and enforced the FCC's rules are and this amicus brief, that pleads with the Supreme Court to ignore a ruling based on a defunct policy, because it will affect children's television, being filed prior to a case investigating the FCC policy on expletives -- Should raise a hell of a lot of alarms.

About Faking Normality

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Faking Normality. The one place we don't do it. All is not well. The world is not coming to an end. Don't fake normality, achieve it.