It’s easy to hate the cable company. Especially if you live in a city or neighborhood where there is only one poor choice for cable/broadband. And those clunky old set top boxes? Who needs them right? In fact I haven’t used my Verizon set top box in months. It’s not even plugged in. Neither is the television. My entire family watches stuff on their laptops, tablets or smartphones. Even live television. I’m happy to get rid of my set top box. And like most people in the country that is what I thought the “unlock the box” rule proposed by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and FCC senior counsel (and former Google Shill) Gigi Sohn was all about. Turns out it was really about giving big tech access to our viewing data, and creating a sort of FCC mandated “compulsory license” for video content. Songwriters can explain to you the horrors of compulsory licensing with rates set by “captured” agencies.
Andrew Orlowski lays it all out here:
The closer you look at this, the stranger it seems. The FCC initiative is supposed to be about removing the obligation to lease equipment provided by the cable and satellite PayTV services to view the content. In response, TV and tech companies are backing a new technical framework that uses open standards and “appifies” everything, making any kind of hardware redundant. But the FCC has rejected it.
The alternative plan envisaged a “virtual headend”, with a much longer transition. The details would be worked out at some point in the future. Although the FCC isn’t formally permitted to devise radical policy shifts, here it did, with Public Knowledge as the FCC’s proxy. Public Knowledge backed the virtual headend plan (the Google-y alternative) and the FCC jumped in to support it.
Earlier this year FCC chairman Tom Wheeler addressed a Public Knowledge meeting apologizing for “stealing” its chief executive Gigi Sohn to become his “special counsel for external affairs” at the FCC.
Today, watching TV is one of the few areas in life left where we spend many hours away from Google’s obsessive data collection business and its pervasive advertising machine. But this would change all that: Google would have access to all the data our TV viewing generates. It could sell its own ads against other people’s content, without paying for it, while evading the rules for minority programming or protecting children from inappropriate content. Nice work.
For more Google shenanigans in DC read this: