Cable group switches position: Net neutrality's OK

The American Cable Association asks the FCC to support Net neutrality. Wait, what?

Seriously? Matt Hickey

Go to ESPN360.com. Click on the link at the top that says "Watch Now," and see what happens. You'll either be let in to the viewing area or, more likely, told that you can't access the content because of your Internet service provider.

Why? Ars has it that Disney, the parent company of ESPN360.com, has partnered with certain ISPs to provide exclusive access to its premium content. If your ISP isn't a Disney/ESPN partner, tough luck. This, of course, violates the ideals of Net neutrality.

The Net neutrality position is, in a nutshell, that no matter who you get your Internet access through you should have access to the same Internet as everyone else.

But the large corporations have started using their influence to sell features to the large ISPs at prices that smaller ISPs can't match. Besides the Net neutrality issues, this is troubling.

And not just for the customers: A pop-up actually recommends to customers who don't match the viewing criteria that they change their ISP to one of its partner providers so they can. It actually says:

ESPN360.com is available at no charge to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection from an ESPN360.com-affiliated Internet service provider. ESPN360.com is also available to fans that access the Internet from U.S. college campuses and U.S. military bases.

Your current computer network falls outside of these categories. Here's how you can get access to ESPN360.com...Switch to an ESPN360.com affiliated Internet service provider or to contact your Internet service provider and request ESPN360.com. Click here to enter your ZIP code and find out which providers in your area carry offer ESPN360.com

With the exception of college students and the military, Disney wants you to switch your ISP to get full content. This blatant throwing of corporate weight has gained the attention, though, of an unlikely group: the American Cable Association, a group that has historically been against Net neutrality is lobbying the FCC to intervene on their behalf. Now that the mega-corps are using their power to push the smaller cable providers aside, it seems they've realized the threat, and have asked the FCC to investigate such actions.

On the surface this seems like a fairly small issue. One site working with a handful of large providers will not kill the Web as we know it. That being said, this kind of thing is a slippery slope, and Net neutrality proponents often point out that if this kind of behavior is tolerated now, it will make laws to curtail acts like this harder to enforce in the future. We'll follow this story and keep abreast of any others like it that pop up.

The fight for Net neutrality is young, and this particular action might end up being an important precedent. Content partners offering special services depending on which provider customers use hasn't worked well in the cell phone industry and nothing points to it working in the cable industry, either.

Tags:
Internet
About the author

    With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. Matt is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Matt.

     

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