August 1, 2008
It's Official, FCC Slaps Comcast
Well, on a 3 to 2 (the Chair and two Dems in the majority) vote, the FCC ordered Comcast to be more transparent in its broadband network management, though no fine was issued. Comcast, as does it's industry supporters, disagrees with the Commission's determination. Comcast wants every customer to have a positive Internet experience, as long as the definition of positive remains in their control.
From the FCC Press Release:
The Commission rejected Comcast’s defense that its practice constitutes reasonable network management. While Comcast claimed that it was motivated by a desire to combat network congestion, the Commission concluded that the company’s practices are ill-tailored to serve that goal for many reasons: they affect customers who are using little bandwidth simply because they are using a disfavored application; they are not employed only during times of the day when congestion is prevalent; the company’s equipment does not target only those neighborhoods suffering from congestion; and a customer may use an extraordinary amount of bandwidth during periods of network congestion and will be totally unaffected so long as he does not utilize an application disfavored by Comcast.
Statements from all five commissioners are available at the main FCC web page. Expect the expected court challenge. [MG]
July 31, 2008
LG Announces Combined Blu-Ray, Streaming Video Player
One of the reasons pundits thought that Sony's victory in the HD media war was Pyhrric had to do with streaming video. There are options out there, such as Apple TV, the Xbox Extender, Amazon's Unbox, the Media PC, and probably others of which I'm not thinking. So, instead of competing with Sony's Blu-Ray, why not combine a competing service with a Blu-Ray player? That's what LG is doing with a new model of Blu-Ray player. They offer streaming video from Netflix as a feature of the player, though as of now, the stream is not hi-def. Sony can't be thrilled about this. It's one thing to put a box in someone's home, but using that box to offer an alternative to the hi-def media experience will cannibalize sales of discs. Is someone really going to pay $20 on up for media that they may watch twice, if that? Preview on Netflix, and then decide if the content is worth owning. It's great marketing if you're in the streaming video business, not so great if you're in the disc artifact business. It also means one less device in the consumer living room for the same functionality.
The service uses a broadband connection for the stream. The only thing that can put a crimp in this model is for the service providers to start metering Internet access, as Time Warner and other providers (AT&T?) are starting to examine as an option. Interesting to see how this plays out, what with IP networks serving up their own media offerings. Look for LG's new Blu-Ray player later on this year.
More from Information Week. [MG]
July 30, 2008
Italian Media Company Sues Google, YouTube
Google and YouTube are being sued by Italian media company Mediaset SpA for copyright violation. Mediaset found some 4,643 videos and clips they owned appearing on YouTube without permission. Mediaset wants 500 million euros as damages, or about $780 million US. Mediaset is owned by Italian prime minister Berlusconi.
More on the suit from CNN Money. [MG]
Computer hacker loses extradition appeal
Gary McKinnon lost his appeal in Great Britain's high court yesterday, and will be subject to extradition to the United States, where he faces charges in the United States for computer hacking. In fact, "[p]rosecutors allege that McKinnon hacked into than 90 computer systems belonging to the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Defense and NASA between February 2001 and March 2002, causing $900,000 worth of damage.
McKinnon has acknowledged accessing the computers, but he disputes the reported damage and said he did it because he wanted to find evidence that America was concealing the existence of aliens." (quoted from CNN.com)
Aliens? Perhaps a conspiracy? And an extradition just in time for the X-files movie...
Of course, the United States Department of Justice has their own less interesting and alien-free version of the story, posted here.
July 28, 2008
New Search Engine Cuil
The new search engine, Cuil, debuted Sunday night. The servers are running slow because of the interest in the offering from ex-Googlers. Reviews are starting to pop in, and here's one from PC Magazine. The notable features are that it purports to have indexed approximately 120 billion web pages compared to the estimated 40 billion pages in Google, and a display of pages based on relevancy. The results page is also fairly attractive in layout and display.
I tried it by looking for a web site I maintain for music projects by me and friends of mine. The name is fairly unique, though I won't mention it here as I'm not promoting it to anyone. The search for it in Cuil brought up erratic results based on name variations, and a search for the proper name in quotation marks brought up nothing. This is likely due to the newness of the engine, though with three times the number of pages in Google, one would hope a search based on an uncommon name would bring that item to the fore. I even checked Windows Live Search just in case (Microsoft's share of search just went up .000000000001% based on that search) and yes, my site was there. I am indexed, therefore I am.
Try Cuil out for yourself here. By the way, Cuil, as is my music site, is indexed in Google. Look it up. [MG]
FCC Expected to Hit Comcast on Net Management Practices
The FCC will be holding a meeting on Friday, August 1st, where the five commissioners will be considering a memorandum opinion and order addressing Comcast's network management practices. News reports indicate that there are at least three votes for penalizing Comcast for secretly degrading peer-to-peer applications over the network. The result of a formal vote will require Comcast to stop blocking traffic and to disclose its network management practices to customers. Comcast has already done most of this as a result of the complaint against it. No fine is contemplated.
The Commission order will likely be challenged in court, as Comcast has questioned whether the Commission has the authority to regulate network management practices. Ars Technica reported an interesting twist on this stand in a California case where Comcast was sued for deceptive advertising, violation of the FCC's traffic management principles, and breach of contract. Comcast successfully argued that the judge stay the case since jurisdiction with the issues rests with the FCC. One assumes Comcast's lawyers filed the document with with a straight face. Expect a long fight over the Commission's authority no matter what. [MG]
July 27, 2008
Sirius and XM merger approved by FCC
monopoly merger will look like after the buy-out is still unclear, but with the final tie-breaking FCC vote in late Friday night, they are well on their way to one monolithic satellite radio offering for consumers.
The companies talk about cost savings and more services for their subscribers. Others had some doubts about this being in the consumers' best interests.
"The long-running regulatory review was watched closely by exasperated investors anxious for a resolution as well as satellite radio customers with questions about what impact the merger would have on their service.
The approval was a major blow for the land-based radio industry, which lobbied hard against the buyout. It was also opposed by consumer groups, various members of Congress and state attorneys general, all of whom argued a satellite radio merger would hurt consumers and was not in the public interest.
"They kept each other on their toes," Democratic commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said of the two companies. "I hope they keep their edge and don't become a fat and happy monopoly."" (quoted from CNN\Money.com)
Yep. We'll see...
Nokia and Qualcomm settle their differences
Finally ending "a bitter legal battle that has lasted nearly three years and spanned three continents" (quoted from CNN.com), Nokia and Qualcomm have agreed to settlement terms. Nokia has agreed to withdraw an antitrust complaint pending against Qualcomm at the European Commission, just one part of the terms of their closed settlement agreement, and the impact on the value of Qualcomm's stocks was almost immediate. Read more about the Nokia/Qualcomm settlement here.
Of course, that doesn't end Qualcomm's legal issues, as they continue to do battle with "[o]ther companies [that] have complaints before the European Commission, and Qualcomm is fighting in U.S. courts to overturn a possible ban on the imports of phones with its chips after Broadcom Corp. won a patent-infringement case." (quoted from Bloomberg.com) [MD]