No, ESPN Still Not Breaking Any Imagined Neutrality Principles

from the full-circle dept

Spurred on by some coverage in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, there’s been some buzz about ESPN360, the cable channel’s broadband video service. ESPN has chosen not to sell access to the site to end users, but rather to ISPs, who then offer free access to their customers. Much of the furor has echoed previous silliness about ESPN committing some sort of “reverse net neutrality” offense by determining just who could access their content. But, just like before, equating this situation to net neutrality isn’t right. The crux of the net neutrality debate is about ISPs wanting to control the content their customers can access. What’s going on here is a content provider determining who can access its content and an appropriate business model — as content providers have always done. This is every content provider’s right — since unlike the telcos, they’re not abusing a long history of government support — whether they want to use a paywall, limit access to people in certain areas, or just publish freely. Whether the business model is a sound one is another discussion, but it’s certainly well within ESPN’s rights to sell its service this way.

In any case, there are more interesting angles to this story. First is the fact that broadband ISPs are actually looking to compete — in whatever small way — and attract users by offering them this exclusive content. This would actually appear to be a tacit admission that content providers make ISPs’ networks valuable, undermining the telcos’ net neutrality position. But more interesting is the reaction of some cable companies’ frosty reactions to ESPN 360, objecting to the business model. The WSJ writes an exec from Cox says paying for the service would “saddle its customers with unnecessary costs, because they will inadvertently be paying for a service they may not want when they sign up for broadband.” That’s sort of funny, considering that’s exactly how they sell cable channels — pay for a bunch you don’t want to get the ones you do.

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Comments on “No, ESPN Still Not Breaking Any Imagined Neutrality Principles”

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Jim Harper (user link) says:

Leaving Arguments for Broadband Regulation on a Th

So the difference between content providers and telcos is that telcos enjoyed government-backed monopoly in the past? I get it! Net neutrality regulation is part of the reparations movement. But seriously, I don’t think that’s a sound basis for regulatory policy and it’s certainly not going to promote investment or broadband growth. Former monopoly = bygones. Let’s just all work on knocking down *current* government-created competitive advantage enjoyed by *anyone.*

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Leaving Arguments for Broadband Regulation on

So the difference between content providers and telcos is that telcos enjoyed government-backed monopoly in the past? I get it! Net neutrality regulation is part of the reparations movement.

Jim, seriously. You make yourself look silly when you say that because you know that’s not what we said.

If you honestly can’t see the difference between content providers choosing how they deliver content to end users (end to end) and a the network provider in the middle blocking or degrading service between the ends, then you need to read up a little on how the internet works.

Please. You’re making yourself look bad, and I know you know better.

But seriously, I don’t think that’s a sound basis for regulatory policy and it’s certainly not going to promote investment or broadband growth.

Um. Again. Repeatedly we have advocated NOT approving these new laws, so why do you assume we’re advocating new regulations on this?

Former monopoly = bygones

If only it were that easy, but you know that’s not true. Those “former monopolies” still have tons of rights and subsidies that no one else gets. They got their monopolies in exchange for certain gurantees that were supposed to drive competition.

They ignored the guarantees, so now we lack the competition we should have.

That’s not bygones. That’s bad for the market.

Let’s just all work on knocking down *current* government-created competitive advantage enjoyed by *anyone.*

I thought that’s what we were doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Please TechDirt

I agree with the first post comment but banning anon won’t do squat to control content posts – especially because I can post any name I want and it’s still anon. Funny, cause I could do that with registration too – unless you propose forcing TD users to verify themselves via credit card information.

lol – not very well thought out there but I really do appreciate your complaint as mine are very similar.

Afirstus Postus says:

Please TechDirt

Ditto, what would stop someone from registering and then posting a 1st post? Also, why does it bother you so much? Do you actually take the time to read the person’s subject and name and date and time they posted and then their post or something? Just skip over the 1st posts… it’s not that hard, there’s a nice scroll bar on the side of your browser that can do just that, and what’s better is that most mice nowadays have a nifty little scroll wheel on them… really, I’m not kidding, you should try it some time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Please TechDirt

It’s a hassle. It’s paramount to defacement (IMHO). It’s rude and immature. It isn’t why I’m here so I don’t want to put up with it. I shouldn’t have to filter through asshole posts to find something worthy of reading. Etc…

Fact is that if this immature-hobby continues to get more out of hand I will stop coming back (and I’m sure I’m not alone) and TD will eventually be so toally void of intelligent comments that it will be pointless. I don’t want that to happen so I, apparantly along with others here, am appealing to the TD powers-at-be to mitigate fraudulent posts somehow.

Whatever he said says:

So basically, if they all had their way, we’d have to pay to access a website, like porn. I know this is over simplified, but if that is what it boils down too it might be a good thing.

Maybe kids will log off and start riding bikes again. Maybe sport junkies will log off and do something athletic.

Who am I kidding. But the day my ISP stops me from going somewhere, for any reason at all, is the day I ….. oh, f* it, they have me by the balls and they know it.

Where are the aliens when you need them?

Lay Person says:

Re: Re:

The way I understand it is the way the cable TV model works:

There are all these networks (websites), each possessing some type of programming content (news, porn, commedy, etc.)

They have no way of delivering this content.

A cable company XYZ (ISP) has a method of delivering the content. Now the cable company can offer up the content as one whole package (the way ISPs offer content today) or they can separate content by offering different packages (i.e. basic, premium, special, etc.).

So, this will limit the amount/type of sites the ISP will allow customers to access.

Whatever he said says:

Re: Re: Re:

Thanks Lay, thats the general impression I’m getting.

The Capitalist in me (Objectivist, whatever … not today) applauds them. I love money, and if I’ve got you by the balls I’ll probably squeze you for as much as you can stand, but I pride myself on being able to deliver a quality product for all your pain.

On the other hand, it totally sucks to lose the freedom we currently have — I sure as hell don’t want to pay more, for less, I would assume.

But we know how this works — if I need more money for a premium ISP package, my cost of business goes up, which I pass on to my customers by raising my fees.

Somewhere along the line the proletariat will scream for public access ISPs, beyond the public library, and here we go again.

Sounds like fun.

Lay Person says:

All the time

Who cares about first postings.

Just move on get over it. It seems to me that, for those people it bothers, they probably don’t have any kids ore don’t like them. For those that do, as parents, they are probably strict disciplinarians.

In any case, the world is full of all kinds of people and it makes no sense to dwell on these types.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: All the time

I care. So deal with it. As long as punks deface places of intelligent conversations so I am forced to read them I will complain.

Instead of complaining about the fact that people don’t like fraudlent posts, why don’t you spend your time complaining about what is making people complain – that way maybe all of it will stop or as least become less or an issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

ESPN will burn for it.

I actuallly abhor this move by ESPN, and think it is motivated by corporate stupidity. IMHO, There is a monopoly abuse (trying to) taking place here.

ESPN thinks instead of having to manage individual accounts, they can force ISP’s customers into forcing the hand of the cable companies and make the cable companies pay for EVERY subscriber, instead of just one or two.

Obviously a hand-forcing move like this would only work if they did actually have a monopoly on the content. They believe they do have this monopoly.

I think they are going to burn for it. Others are going to see the gap being created and will fill it. with all the video sites being created lately, NOW is not a good time to go around refusing to let people pay you for your content. Even if you think you have a right to do so, the market will decide otherwise.

I could create a porn site and only allow members of a particular cell phone company have access to it, but there just doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why I would want to.

Disclaimer: Watching sports (or just about any other tv) is about as interesting to me as watching grass grow. I prefer my downtime to be a little more interactive, thank you.

Hrmm… Now I’m not so sure, is this move by ESPN an abuse of monopoly, or is it actually a RICO violation? Hey, Cable company, if you don’t pay into this, we’ll make your customers switch providers.

Scott says:

Re: ESPN will burn for it.

Maybe you don’t understand the monopoly correctly.

A content owner who decides not to share their content with a group does not constitute RICO violations. Idiotic ramblings like this are what make issues like this so problematic.

A content owner(we’ll call primary) who forces the ISP to drop other sports related content(we’ll call secondary) because they can’t afford to lose the Primary could be considered to be abusing a monopoly, but there are still many conditions to meet first.

Simply not allowing certain people access to your content is a choice nothing more.

Rational Beaver says:

What I think the cable companies hate the most is that THEY are supposed to be providing the ‘value added’ portal services. Thing is, their portals are terrible and no one uses them so when someone with a real website and good content comes along, they get jealous.

When I had Adelphia they anounced some portal thing with videos and sports and whatnot on it. I never even bothered to look. Those guys need to face facts, tube-sellers don’t make good content.

d.l. says:

charging ISPs

This kind of model may make very good sense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see telcos and cablecos develop the ability to sell access to this kind of “premium” content on an individual subscriber basis. That would look exactly like the HBO model. It may also put broadband providers and content providers in a more cooperative position with respect to unauthorized file sharing.

ucfknight says:

seems to me..

i always see people hacking programs and phone codes everyday, instead of wishing it was different, why doesnt some tech savvy person cripple the strangle-hold that espn has everyone in and just find away around this problem.. i have read some suggestions, ie: hold control on IE to disable the pop up which allows u around the initial wall but still doesnt work, and another suggestion of taking screen shots from an allowed ISP to trick espn but i say there is a way around it, someone will figure it out and espn will have to respond… just a matter of time

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