Posts Tagged ‘Comcast’

Comcast versus Common Sense: New Frontiers for Net Neutrality?

A new brouhaha has broken out in the U.S. over actions taken by Comcast that give its television and video services delivered via Microsoft’s Xbox a free pass, while still applying bandwidth caps to rival over-the-top television services such as Netflix, Apple TV, HBO Go, etc. It’s the latest frontier in the network neutrality disputes in the US.

The act may not breach the formal rules of network neutrality set out by the FCC in 2010, states Stacey Higginbotham, but it certainly seems to breach the spirit of network neutrality, she implies. Others such as Public Knowledge and the Free Press are much more forthright in the condemnation of the move, but are still holding fire while building a legal and regulatory case.

Higginbotham argues that, technically speaking, the FCC’s 2010 Network Neutrality rules allow Comcast to set aside portions of its networks for managed services, and therefore Comcast’s deal with Microsoft to stream tv and video to the Xbox without caps while applying them to everybody else is probably just fine.  She may be right.

The argument is not unusual. It is part of the incumbents’ arsenal. It is exactly the argument that Mirko Bibic, Bell’s chief regulatory pitbull, used last year when justifying why Bell’s IPTV services won’t count to the infinitely more tight-fisted bandwidth caps in Canada while for everybody else distributing video online it would.

But to get back to the Comcast/Microsoft Xbox case presently at issue, I wonder if the governing set of rules is not the 2010 Open Internet order, as some seem to be fixing on, but rather the “Comcast Network Neutrality Rules” that were fleshed out with much greater precision and sense of specificity when the FCC approved the Comcast-NBC Universal take-over last year?

While many, including then commissioner Michael Copps, have argued that the deal was a travesty and a sop to the new integrated corporate media titan, looked at from a Canadian and international comparative vantage point, the Comcast NBC-Universal deal was actually quite a big thing. The FCC (2011a) and Department of Justice asked for, and got, quite a lot.

The regulator made it crystal clear that it thought that “the harms that could result [from the take-over] are substantial” (p. 3). Among the conditions of approval, Comcast accepted several fairly tough demands that are directly relevant to the case at hand.

According to the “Comcast rules”, any Comcast service involving “caps, tiers, metering, or other usage-based pricing shall . . .”:
1. “. . . not treat affiliated network traffic differently from unaffiliated network traffic” (p. 38).

2. offer the same facilities and capabilities to others on commercially equivalent terms(p. 38);

3. insure that even its set-top boxes adhere to the “broadband Internet access service rules” (pp. 38-40).

Arguments over whether or not ‘managed services’ can be usefully and fairly segregated from the rest of an integrated broadband network media ecology can be a bottomless pit of contention and strategic manipulation, and it is indeed true that the FCC’s Open Internet rules of two years ago side stepped the quagmier.

The Comcast decision, however, was dealing with the specifics of a monumental corporate transaction and in that more circumscribed context, the specifics of network neutrality rules were brought more sharply into focus. Thus, even if having been battered in the courts for the past decade and the FCC’s own prevarication, the network neutrality rules are not dead.


Coders of the World Unite? LulzSec Hits Military-Information-Media-Entertainment (MIME) Complex

At the peak of their notariety, the self-styled hactivist group, Lulzsec, declared today that it was winding down its efforts.

The group of largely unknown maruaders had defaced, defiled and otherwise disabled websites and ‘network operations’ of a number of high profile targets: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Disney, EMI, the U.S. Congress, US Navy, the CIA’s public website and other targets in the defense industries such as Lockheed Martin.

It is this ensemble of state-media and entertainment companies-telecoms-military firms that the theorist James DerDerian calls the Military-Information-Media Entertainment, or MIME complex. These are the entities that LulzSec has had in their targets, unhappy with journalistic coverage of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, outraged that people can’t remix big media content at will, and convinced that murky links across the MIME complex undermine open flows of information.

I can’t claim to know a ton about this MIME stuff, but regularly read those who do. The Open Network Initiative at UT led up by Ron Diebert in cooperation with others at SecDev in Ottawa. James DeDerian, as I said, is also very good.

The basic point that they make is that it is is useful to pay attention to the intersection of networked media technologies, entertainment and security. That’s exactly what LulzSec has accomplished; forced us to pay attention to these things, if nothing else.

Their logo is way cool — a Digital Robber Baron who looks suspiciously like his rapacious 19th century counterparts such as the reviled Jay Gould.

LulzSec’s Manifesto declaring the end of their activities is a combination of Karl Marx retuned for the digital age and “Jack Ass”. Here’s what they had to say:

For the past 50 days we’ve been disrupting and exposing corporations, governments, often the general population itself, and quite possibly everything in between, just because we could. All to selflessly entertain others – vanity, fame, recognition, all of these things are shadowed by our desire for that which we all love. The raw, uninterrupted, chaotic thrill of entertainment and anarchy. It’s what we all crave, even the seemingly lifeless politicians and emotionless, middle-aged self-titled failures. You are not failures. You have not blown away. You can get what you want and you are worth having it, believe in yourself.

While we are responsible for everything that The Lulz Boat is, we are not tied to this identity permanently. Behind this jolly visage of rainbows and top hats, we are people. People with a preference for music, a preference for food; we have varying taste in clothes and television, we are just like you. Even Hitler and Osama Bin Laden had these unique variations and style, and isn’t that interesting to know? The mediocre painter turned supervillain liked cats more than we did.

Again, behind the mask, behind the insanity and mayhem, we truly believe in the AntiSec movement. We believe in it so strongly that we brought it back, much to the dismay of those looking for more anarchic lulz. We hope, wish, even beg, that the movement manifests itself into a revolution that can continue on without us. The support we’ve gathered for it in such a short space of time is truly overwhelming, and not to mention humbling. Please don’t stop. Together, united, we can stomp down our common oppressors and imbue ourselves with the power and freedom we deserve.

So with those last thoughts, it’s time to say bon voyage. Our planned 50 day cruise has expired, and we must now sail into the distance, leaving behind – we hope – inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere. Anywhere.

Thank you for sailing with us. The breeze is fresh and the sun is setting, so now we head for the horizon.

Let it flow…

Lulz Security – our crew of six wishes you a happy 2011, and a shout-out to all of our battlefleet members and supporters across the globe.

So, is this what a call to the ‘coders of the world to unite looks like’? Is it Karl Marx’s new cybertariate rising up to throw of the shackles of digitization and the incessant ‘tribal drumbeat’ of an always connected, always on people? A world in which the amount of necessary labour time becomes longer and longer and the walls separating ‘work’ from ‘play’ and ‘eros’ (Marcuse) are completely intertwined. Is this why high flying people send pics of their penises to people they don’t even know, compounding their own stupidity by ‘broadcasting’ their message to all rather than sending it just to one?

Servers have been taken down over the last several days by law enforcement in not just the US but in many places and a 19yr old Brit arrested. LulszSec’s manifesto suggests that (1) the ‘network’ is in place to continue the operations and (2) the operations are just because the examples of complicity involving the MIME the come at the expense of civil liberties, democracies and open media and entertainment continue to pile up.

This past week, Comcast, ATT and Verizon have come closer to taking of using control over their networks to help the media and entertainment industries preserve their own ‘business models’. The National Security Agency works hand-in-glove with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, etc. to protect Lockheed Martin and other ‘critically important Defense Infrastructure’ companies.

As long as the MIME continues to pose severe threats to open information flows, civil rights and democracy, groups like LulzSec will step into the breach. And whether we love or loathe them, they will raise our attention and draw it to some fundamental points.

%d bloggers like this: