A U.S. federal appeals court ruled yesterday that regulators had limited power over Web traffic. The ruling will allow Internet service carriers to block (or slow) specific sites and or charge video sites like YouTube and Hulu to deliver their content faster to users. The ruling was a result of Comcast trying to assert its right to slow its cable customers’ access to a file-sharing service called BitTorrent.
The decision gives carriers a leg-up in their on-going struggle to assert usage/pricing control over all-you-can eat broadband plans. Essentially, with its fight on net neutrality, carriers are trying to stuff the digital genie of “unlimited Web access” back into the bottle.
The court ruling is not a decisive blow, but it does give the carriers a stronger position in their efforts to demand higher fees for higher volumes of data traffic. If they were ever to implement such pricing in a broad-based manner, it would dampen aggregate demand for video content distributed via Internet-style networks. It casts a shadow over the idea of unfettered video distribution online.
In practice, and in the short haul, carriers would have a difficult time imposing restrictions on consumers. So the impact on today’s online video market is negligible. It boils down to more of a fight between carriers and would-be content aggregators (such as P2P platforms) that can benefit by leveraging consumers’ unlimited access accounts to make their commercial services more viable.
Steve Vonder Haar is the Research Director of Interactive Media Strategies and an AV Technology Advisor. What do you think about this ruling? Leave a comment....