Here are two recent articles that seem should be juxtaposed:
The Pioneer Press reports that …
If the Netflix video you watch via a Comcast connection seems slow and unreliable, you are not alone.
Other Comcast customers in the Twin Cities and around the country said they have been frustrated with poor-quality Netflix video, frequent streaming hiccups and other issues that, in certain cases, have persisted for months.
The issue apparently isn’t video, it’s the video supplier…
“Netflix is BY FAR the worst on my Sony Bravia” TV, Bob Collins, who works at Minnesota Public Radio, said in a Twitter post. “Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, everything else is just fine.”
Anthony Domanico, a St. Paul-based technology journalist, also sees better performance with Amazon streaming than with Netflix, which he said is plagued with a less-than-optimal video resolution and frequent pauses to reconnect with Netflix’s servers. This problem has persisted since November, he said.
At the same time, Channel 4 reports…
Comcast has agreed to pay $158.82 per share of Time Warner Cable stock, according to two people with direct knowledge of the transaction who insisted on anonymity because the deal will not be publicly announced until Thursday morning.
The two companies expect the merger to receive government approval and take effect by the end of the year, but regulators are likely to take a close look at the potential impact on consumers. Through the consolidation of Time Warner Cable, Comcast would be the dominant provider of television channels and Internet connections in roughly one in three American homes, a total unmatched by any other distributor.
The Time Warner article doesn’t bring up Net Neutrality – but it does bring up issues related to able ownership in any given market…
But even before the official announcement of the deal, questions arose about whether Comcast will be allowed to expand its cable footprint so substantially.
Regulators used to enforce a rule that prohibited a single cable company from controlling more than 30% of the market. But Comcast led a challenge to that rule in the mid-2000s, and in 2009 a federal appeals court threw out the 30% cap.
Still, the Justice Department and other federal agencies will surely line up to scrutinize the proposed combination.
Media ownership is a big deal to me – because media ownership decides whose voices gets heard.
The Netflix article does bring up Net Neutrality…
And Comcast’s NBC television operations compete directly with Netflix’s original content for TV-viewer eyeballs.
The potential Comcast-NBC market dominance came up as a concern during hearings in 2010 when Comcast was attempting to buy the TV network. And Comcast in 2007 was accused of blocking access to the BitTorrent file-downloading service.
More recently, a court struck down Federal Communications Commission “net neutrality” rules that prohibited Internet providers from favoring one service or app over another. Such rules would have been a clear impediment to throttling of, or other such meddling with, third-party services.
Netflix, for its part, acknowledges problems with its service via certain Internet providers but said the situation does not qualify as a crisis.
The issues are potentially wonky and potentially boring. (Netflix has a solution to help ISPs better stream their videos, but Comcast chooses not to avail of the service.) But the impact is something that customers deal with daily. And when you talk about Netflix it seems like a conversation about convenience but as recent discussions in Minnesota have indicated the Internet isn’t a convenience it’s a utility. People get access to education. Healthcare, employment as well as new and information. What happens if some provider decides to filter based on those needs, not just video downloads?