Funny That HBO Is Putting Shows Online, Just As Parent Time Warner Starts Charging Extra For Bandwidth

from the coincidence? dept

The NY Times is covering the news that HBO has finally decided it needs a real internet strategy, and will start offering its content online, free of (additional) charge to existing subscribers. The idea of putting the content online makes a lot of sense, and it sounds like it's offering features that many HBO subscribers would find useful, from access to archived materials to live streams. However, there is something a little odd about all this, as noted by the folks at The Hollywood Reporter. HBO is owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the same company that is now starting to experiment with overage fees, sometimes based on very low usage -- which would clearly preclude watching very much online video.

It is true that both of these programs are merely tests -- and they're tests in totally different markets right now. However, the HBO online video will only be available to Time Warner customers. The Hollywood Reporter story suggests that it's a case of two parts of a business not communicating with one another -- but I'm sure some more conspiracy-minded thinkers will naturally assume it's really Time Warner's attempt to squeeze more money out of people. Sure, it will say the HBO streams are "free," but just wait until you get that broadband bill... Of course, there is also another possibility. The Hollywood Reporter story mentions the possibility that Time Warner would create a special "exception" to the bandwidth rule if that bandwidth was for watching Time Warner-only videos. That, of course, is exactly the sort of thing that will be sure to get network neutrality advocates up in arms, though it's a subtle shift from traditional network neutrality claims. This time it won't be about "better quality," but about which content counts towards a bandwidth cap.

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  1. identicon
    Matt, 21 Jan 2008 @ 2:39pm

    Bandwidth Caps

    I recently got shutdown by Comcast for going over on there bandwidth limitations and it's got me wondering about a lot of these things. I use Orb for streaming audio/video to my phone. I can watch the news or catch up on my shows on the train into work. I also am a member of Hulu and use it to watch TV as my PC is connected to my TV and it works great. I use Pandora while working to discover new music.

    Now, the classic argument on the bandwidth cap is that that usage is all piracy (not saying it is). Also, when talking with Comcast, they explained that they basically run a report at the end of the month, sort by usage, and cut off the top certain percent. This plays into there story that there is no set cap, and that it is only addressed when others notice. However, as more and more of these services become available, and more and more people use them, the bandwidth caps for each individual user will drop.

    It's just a matter of time before more and more "average" everyday users will run into these problems because someone directs them to one site or another and there usage breaks this invisible limit. It's a pretty crappy situation, and I don't see it getting any better for, oh, how's 5 years sound. Hopefully we'll have some of this worked out by then.

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