"It is semantics until the phrases "blocked" or "net neutrality" get thrown around, then it becomes important. This has nothing to do with how someone can use their broadband connection, it relates directly to a premium pay cable TV service offering and the associated benefits."
You're offering absolutely no reason why these semantics are important here and this isn't part of the broader net neutrality debate. Again, it doesn't matter if Comcast is using a refusal to authenticate or throttling -- the end result is the same: They're using their position of power to prevent people from accessing content they pay for on hardware they own.
How people are upset that I'm suggesting this is even part of the net neutrality conversation seems bizarre to me. People are going to have to open their eyes wider, as the net neutrality discussion has broadened as ISPs get more clever about these abuses.
Thanks. Yes, clearly I needed to explain some of this better, though the older article I wrote and linked to does some of this.
I repeat myself because this is something that's important to understand as the net neutrality debate moves forward. ISPs know they can't throttle or block content, so they're going to start getting more creative. More creative, elaborate bullshit excuses are going to be built trying to defend anti-competitive behavior using pretty flimsy, faux-technical justifications.
People all insisting this isn't a net neutrality violation simply because they're using a different mechanism to the same end is really only beneficial to Comcast.
If semantics are really the issue we can just call this "anti-competitive behavior" and not a pure net neutrality violation, but it's part of the neutrality conversation.
"I'm sorry Karl, I don't buy your argument, and it seems I'm not alone here. All I want is my IP packets to travel unmolested over the tubes I paid for access to."
So you're ok then if Comcast doesn't let your new Roku or Playstation access certain content? They're still blocking access to content you pay for, they're just using a refusal to authenticate and an elaborate pile of bullshit instead of harming the packets.
The end result is the same. It's part of the same conversation.
You buy a Roku 3. You already pay for cable and HBO. You hook it up but just need Comcast servers to basically say "yes, he's a paying cable customer," something that's not a problem for every other ISP. But Comcast refuses to provide this for YEARS, never really telling you why. But the reason is they want you watching HBO content on THEIR X1 set top boxes and platforms.
You really don't see how this is at least related to the entire net neutrality debate?
Call Comcast and cancel your HBO if you don't like it.
Punishing HBO for what Comcast is doing doesn't really accomplish anything here.
It doesn't matter whether Comcast is using de-prioritized packets, blocking, or intentionally refusing to authenticate users, the end result is the same: they're using their gatekeeper power to keep people OFF of other platforms, and ON their platforms. It's all one giant conversation. And if the net neutrality rules include interconnection, usage caps, zero rated apps and other shenanigans, I believe this kind of trickery is part of the dialogue.
Or we can just ditch the term neutrality here and use "anti-competitive behavior" if the semantics bother people so much.
TV Everywhere is stupid, not illegal. To me, failing to authenticate so users can't use hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for to reach content they pay for is anti-competitive. Whether it's specifically illegal is irrelevant to me in this case, as Comcast has undue influence over law, or regulators haven't yet figured out what Comcast's doing.
"What is your definition of net neutrality?"
To me, net neutrality is about making sure incumbent gatekeepers from abusing their positions of market power to prevent consumers from gaining access to the content and services of their choice. Here, again, Comcast is using their failure to get a simple authentication system up and running so that users are more likely to stick with traditional Comcast set top boxes and traditional HBO.
Comcast wants you to view Xfinity and HBO content on THEIR X1 cable boxes and on demand platforms, where you deal with THEIR ad choices, and user behavior monetization technologies, etc. That's all this has ever been about.
"Network neutrality has always been about how traffic is carried over the pipes. It's never been about how the sources and destinations of that traffic respond to it."
ISPs originally wanted to throttle, block, or create fast lanes to double dip. When it was clear regulators and the public weren't going to allow this, they simply got more creative. Using zero rated apps, for example, or through abusing interconnection agreements, they were able to get their pound of flesh in a different way.
Here, Comcast is just using a different mechanism (refusal to set up a simple authentication process) for the same end result (preventing users from accessing the content they want on their own hardware).
The definition of net neutrality is expanding as ISPs get more clever about seeking out said pound of flesh. Whether that's blocking Google Wallet on phones to give your own mobile payment service a leg up, or failing to enact authentication so users can access a common app you don't like, it's all part of the same conversation.
"But it is HBO's choice to make subscribers authenticate with a cable provider."
No, not really. HBO is basically a lap dog to the cable industry because they get so many subsidies from it. The entire cable industry's "TV Anywhere" initiative is all about forcing consumers to prove they have traditional cable if they want to access certain Internet content.
"Why should the FCC force Comcast to respond in a particular way to an authentication request? That seems way outside their jurisdiction."
Because Comcast is intentionally refusing to get authentication working so that fewer customers use non-Comcast devices to access content. It's still anti-competitive behavior, even if they're hiding behind their decision to not authenticate. Again, no other major ISP has had any problems getting this relatively simple authentication process up and running from day one.
"I'm a bit confused about whether this is active sabotage or willful neglect."
I'm not sure I see the difference here. Roku owners with Comcast broadband connections were unable to access the app for THREE YEARS because Comcast intentionally refused to get TV Anywhere authentication up and running.
The end result was prohibiting Comcast customers from being able to use hardware they own and the bandwidth they pay for to access the content they pay for over the Internet.
No, it's not just "how HBO has chosen to do business." The entire cable TV industry's TV Everywhere initiative only gives you access to oodles of Internet content if you can prove you're a traditional cable TV subscriber.
In this case, Comcast was the only company that couldn't be bothered (quite intentionally) to get relatively simple authentication systems up and running. They're using authentication as an intentional obstacle, preventing its customers from accessing the content they want on hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for.
Dear mister anonymous commenter accusing me of being "misleading." From my article:
" Every other broadband provider had no problem ensuring the back-end authentication (needed to confirm you have a traditional cable connection) worked, but not Comcast. When pressed, Comcast would only offer a generic statement saying yeah, it would try and get right on that.
Whether they're outright blocking the service, or intentionally lagging on getting authentication to work (when again, it works for every other major ISP) the end result is the same: Comcast is actively working to prohibit consumers from using hardware they own and bandwidth they pay for to access the services they want. I absolutely believe this sort of behavior fits under the net neutrality umbrella.
I still believe it does have to do with net neutrality. If a core component of net neutrality is a company using its size and power to prevent people from using hardware and broadband connections as they see fit, why wouldn't it be? Interconnection and usage caps are considered part of the conversation, why not this?
Just because Comcast is using the authentication process -- and not an outright throttle or filter -- to accomplish this shouldn't matter.
"I think many folks are missing what I missed; that the main issue here is not that Comcast is "blocking" HBO Go in the classical sense, and therefore this has little to do with neutrality. Comcast are simply foot-dragging on agreeing to tell HBO who is and is not an actual HBO subscriber. We can make up all sort of theories as to why Comcast would do this...."
Again, I see that as semantics. The definition of blocking is creating obstacles, and that's precisely what Comcast is doing here. A key component of neutrality (to me) is a gatekeeper using its size and power to deter competing services from hurting its own services, and again, that's precisely what's happening here.
I absolutely think this falls under the net neutrality umbrella. It's Comcast getting in the way of people using their connections and hardware as they see fit.
"While it seems to amount to the same thing for the consumer, Comcast is not blocking HBO Go but rather has not provided the necessary support for the service to work."
That strikes me as semantics for the sole benefit of Comcast. They refused to provide "necessary support" for Roku for THREE YEARS, the end result being people unable to use their broadband connection the way they'd like.
As the article notes it's clearly not a "purely technical issue."