In the News

Published November 1, 2007

DoJ on Net Neutrality

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in September it opposes the concept of network neutrality, saying it could “deter broadband Internet providers from upgrading and expanding their networks to reach more Americans.”

Net neutrality would prevent broadband providers from directly charging content or application providers for faster or guaranteed quality services. That prohibition, DoJ said in its filing, “could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers.”

DoJ noted different service levels and pricing–just like those offered by the U.S. Postal Service–are a common and often-efficient way of allocating scarce resources and satisfying consumer demand.

“Whether or not the same type of differentiated products and services will develop on the Internet should be determined by market forces, not regulatory intervention,” the DoJ filing stated.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, “Department of Justice Comments on ‘Network Neutrality’ in Federal Communications Commission Proceeding,” September 6, 2007:

IPTV Marks Milestone

In early September, Motorola announced it had shipped its two millionth Internet Protocol (IP) set-top box–just five months after crossing the 1 million threshold.

Box No. 2,000,000 was part of a shipment of 150,000 set-top boxes to TeliaSonera, Sweden’s largest telecommunications company.

“IPTV is growing. The number of IPTV homes will rise from around 3 million now to more than 50 million in the next five years,” said Peter White, principal analyst and founder of Rethink Research Associates, in a Motorola release.

White estimates IPTV’s ability to offer home security, music, gaming, and new advertising capabilities will turn it into a $20 billion service industry by 2011.

AT&T and Verizon are among companies providing IPTV service in the United States.

Source: Todd Spangler, “Motorola Sees Surge in IPTV Set-Tops,” Multichannel News, September 7, 2007:

FCC Unshackles Bells

Saying it was addressing “outmoded rules” with new “consumer protections,” FCC told the three remaining Baby Bell companies they no longer have to run their long-distance businesses as separate legal entities.

FCC noted the old separation requirement “is at odds with a market environment where local and long-distance services increasingly are marketed and provided on a bundled basis.”

The Bells have committed to offering special rate plans for the next three years tailored to consumers who make relatively few long-distance calls–a consumer protection, says FCC. The companies also have committed to providing subscribers to bundled single-rate local/long-distance plans “adequate information regarding their monthly usage in order to ensure such consumers can make informed choices concerning their options for making long-distance calls.”

The commitments were conditions of the new regulatory framework.

Source: “Bells May Merge Local Operations, Long Distance,” The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2007:

HBO Will Use Watermarks

Home Box Office (HBO) announced it’s implementing a digital watermarking technology to protect copies of DVDs and downloads of series it makes available to reviewers.

Numerous broadcast trade journals reported HBO was stunned last year when pirated review copies of the entire fourth season of its popular show The Wire turned up for sale in East Coast nightclubs and on Internet auction sites. Many of the episodes had yet to be aired.

To give future pirates pause, HBO will use Thomson’s Shield Forensic watermark technology to mark all distributed files and program content such as those sent to reviewers. Each individual frame of video can be invisibly and indelibly marked with a copyright ID–or with the intended recipient’s identifying data.

If an unaired program shows up on eBay or anywhere else, HBO will be able to read its unique watermark and trace the program back to its point of origin. The invisible labels can be read no matter what video editing or format changes may have occurred, so any video sequence–even one mangled by a YouTuber–can be traced back to its source.

Similar technology is being tested in set-top boxes so cable companies can put IDs into video downloaded by subscribers and trace video that is illegally uploaded to Internet sites or duplicated for unauthorized sale.

Sources: Todd Spangler, “HBO to Track Pirated Reviewer Copies,” Multichannel News, September 12, 2007:; “HBO Protects Content with the Thomson Shield,” Thomson, September 6, 2007:

Google Wants Privacy

Google, the $164 billion Internet search and media firm, is calling for a global privacy crusade, according to reports from the Associated Press and The Washington Post.

The Post reported in mid-September that Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for Google, told a United Nations audience in Strasbourg, France an international body such as the U.N. should create standards that individual countries could adopt and adapt to meet their needs.

Google has taken hits for what many consider its own invasions of privacy, such as with a global mapping project unveiled this summer that inadvertently included images of folks in embarrassing moments who had not known they were being photographed by Google’s cameras for Internet posterity. (See “Google’s ‘Street View’: An Internet Peeping Tom?” IT&T News, September 2007.)

In addition, Google is planning a $3.1 billion merger with DoubleClick that has come under fire from antitrust and privacy groups because both companies collect information about what Internet users do when online, which they then use as marketing tools with their advertising clients. Opponents of the merger say it would give one company too much consumer information and hurt online advertising competition.

The European Union is currently investigating Google’s privacy practices, while Congress is contemplating several consumer privacy bills.

Sharon J. Watson ([email protected]) writes from Sugar Land, Texas.