Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


August 27, 2013

What started as a commercial dispute over TV rights (known as "retransmission consent") between CBS and Time Warner Cable (TWC) has escalated in a troublesome way. A breakdown in carriage negotiations that affects some three million television subscribers is also denying access to Internet content to more than 11 million TWC broadband subscribers.

Why? Because CBS is blocking access to by anyone using TWC's broadband Internet access service, whether they are TWC cable TV subscribers or not.

These actions are terribly harmful to consumers, and are gratuitously overbroad. TWC Internet customers are being denied access to CBS website content even if they subscribe to a different video provider (such as DirecTV or Dish), or they live outside the local TV markets involved in the retransmission consent dispute. CBS is even blocking access to its content from TWC's Wi-Fi network by consumers who use other Internet service providers, such as Comcast. Blackouts are often an unfortunate byproduct of these disputes. Yet it's exceptionally aggressive to expand the darkness to broadband consumers not directly affected by the commercial video retransmission dispute.

CBS's troubling move brings into sharp relief the power, ability, and incentive that content companies possess to deny consumers access to Internet content. In debates over net neutrality - the principle that all consumers should have access to lawful Internet content - Internet service providers (ISPs) have consistently warned that the extremely serious risks to consumers and the principles of an open Internet are more likely to arise from the potential actions of content and edge providers from ISP conduct. But the Federal Communications Commission's rules over net neutrality are focused on ISPs, not content providers. Just imagine the public and regulatory uproar if TWC, rather than CBS, had made the decision to limit its broadband Internet customers' access to in connection with this dispute.

Business disputes over economic terms can generally be resolved in the market, but where the government has chosen to restrict the actions of one party and not the other, it tilts the playing field - harming consumers and giving unfair advantage to one side. Commercial disputes happen all the time, and content companies are certainly not obligated to give their content away. But denying only certain consumers access to broadband content that is otherwise freely available on the web is discriminatory. Does CBS even believe in an open Internet?

-Op-ed in Politico by Harold Ford, Jr., a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives; and John Sununu is a former member of the U.S. Senate. They are the honorary co-chairs of Broadband for America, a coalition of 300 members ranging from independent consumer advocacy groups to content and application providers to the companies that build and maintain the Internet. Sununu is a director of Time Warner Cable, a member of Broadband for America.

Red Burns, an educator who gained wide recognition for pushing for more creative uses of modern communications, helping to lead the movement for public access to cable television and starting a celebrated New York University program to foster Internet wizards, died on Friday at her Manhattan home. She was 88.

Ms. Burns has been hailed as the "godmother of Silicon Alley" for helping to turn out 3,000 graduates of the university's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Many have become part of the brain trust of Silicon Alley, as New York City's answer to Silicon Valley is called. They work at Google, Apple, Microsoft and Disney as well as at small start-up firms.

Her purpose was to produce people, rather than just technicians, who could use technology to perform interesting and helpful tasks. Beginning in the early 1970s, working with George C. Stoney, a film professor, she created an informal N.Y.U. program called the Alternate Media Center.

One of its efforts was to develop a two-way television system that allowed elderly residents of Reading, Pa., to interact with one another and "visit" community sites like the city center and the Social Security office. New York Times; click here for the entire article