Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cable Operators Call for "Content Neutrality" Along with Net Neutrality

The American Cable Association, which represents cable network operators, is calling on the FCC to stop content providers from using wholesale arrangements to restrict consumer access to lawful content. ACA cited Disney's as an example where the most powerful sports programmer denies access to content, unless a consumer subscribes to a particular broadband provider.

"ACA believes that content distributors such as ESPN360 should live under the same Net Neutrality rules as broadband service providers," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "The foremost principle of Net Neutrality is that consumers can access the legal content of their choice. ESPN360 fails that principle, and any regulation must address that."

ACA is urging the FCC not to overlook the importance of Content Neutrality because rules solely focused on broadband network providers would leave a gaping hole in the regulatory regime and expose consumers to an assortment of harms that would likely drive up the cost of broadband, a result totally at odds with the Obama Administration's goal of making broadband access both universal and affordable.

ACA said ESPN360's closed Internet business model will effectively force those with no interest in watching sporting events on the Internet to subsidize those who routinely want to access ESPN360's content.

"Despite having the technological know-how to provide this content directly to subscribers for a fee, ESPN has opted to block access to this Web content unless an access provider agrees to place this financial burden on all of its broadband customers," Polka said. "That is wrong, and the FCC must ensure that each consumer has the individual choice to buy or not buy ESPN360."

Polka also stressed that Net Neutrality regulations should permit ISPs to engage in reasonable network management practices and should give them the right to experiment with a range of consumer pricing models, especially consumption- and metered-billing options.