Category Archives: Legislation

Aereo Supreme Court Case Update

Barry Diller, Chairman of IAC and primary backer of Aereo, is more confident now than ever that Aereo will win the Supreme Court case after considering much of the deliberation, although he admits he “has an axe to grind”.

In a CNN Interview entitled Diller on Aereo, Diller states: Supreme Court Justice Roberts asked the question, “Are you [Aereo] only doing this to get around copyright laws?”. Diller’s response is that such questioning is not only incorrect, but in fact, what Aereo is doing, is complying with the law.

More from the CNN Interview:

He [Diller] complained about some of the media coverage of the case, calling it “dopey.” And he disagreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ depiction of Aereo as a “gimmick.”

“Rather than saying it’s a gimmick, what we did is constructed a technological advance within law as we understood it,” Diller said.

Ever since Aereo was introduced in early 2012, Diller has said that there is “no plan B” if the courts conclude that the service is violating the law. He affirmed that point of view in the “Reliable Sources” interview.

Asked whether he thought Aereo would ultimately lose, he said, “I think there’s a 50% chance it’ll lose. Of course, yes. Always, I thought that … But I did not think that it would become this important a moment in the world of technology.”

He added that “Aereo, if it’s successful, together with other services, may change and give competition to the closed system of satellite or cable. That’s what it may do.”

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Singapore’s New Universal Set-Top Box

Several years ago, the Singapore government Media Development Authority (MDA) and Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) put out a joint tender, seeking a vendor to create a universal set top box. The project was called NIMS, which stands for Next-generation Interactive Multimedia application and Service.

For a variety of reasons, the project never succeeded. But it is of interest to note of the original tender outlining the specifications of a universal set top box and the vast amount of thought and work that went into the original project.

So why did it fail?

Alfred Siew of Techgoodnu made a compelling case explaining why a universal set top box in Singapore was a “fantasy piece of equipment” and unpractical.

Thus it’s a good thing that Singapore’s indulgence of a common set-top box is over. It’s really a fantasy piece of equipment that would not have done much to make the market more competitive and which would have shown a regulatory zeal that exceeded practical considerations.

A member of the Hardware Zone Forum speculated that the one of the reasons for the projects failure, aside from “biting off more than they could chew”, was because the new Cross-Carriage act eliminated the problem of needing multiple set-top boxes:

If cluttering one’s home with multiple set-top boxes is a problem, then the problem is solved with the cross-carriage rule. And the universal set-top box project – dubbed Next-Generation Interactive Multimedia, Applications and Services (Nims) – would cease to matter. But Nims also had other goals – so many, they proved impossible to fulfil.

Of course, this well written post was published last year, before the SingTel’s reluctance to practice the cross-carriage act and provide StarHub with EPL content.

But credit has to be given to the IDA and MDA for attempting such a big project, which solves many problems for Singapore television content consumers. They were ambitious in the breadth and depth of specifications they put forward. And it didn’t help that there exists such a competitive environment between the primary TV Operators, who were the players most capable of delivering on such a project.

Say Hello to Bhaalu, Singapore’s new Universal Set-Top Box. Bhaalu does not adhere to all of the government specs, but it comes close. Most importantly, bhaalu delivers on what the consumers need most, rather than what the government or existing Telco’s need.

What do consumers need? 1.) Super easy intuitive relaxing and enjoyful navigation through TV content. 2.) One set-top box that they can use to watch ALL of their TV, regardless if it is MediaCorp FTA, StarHub Cable TV or SingTel Mio TV. 3.) One device that records and time-shifts ALL of their TV, going back in time for up to 3 MONTHS, so you never miss your favourite TV shows ever again, and 4.) TV Everywhere capabilities, to watch your channels where-ever you are located, on most any mobile device, at any time.

Bhaalu is the future of television in Singapore, and the future has arrived.

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Two Hong Kong FTA Broadcast Licenses Granted

fta-govBig television shake-up in Hong Kong as the government approves initial permits for two companies to obtain the highly coveted Free-to-Air broadcast license. The last time a Free-To Air broadcast license was granted in HK was nearly 40 years ago, to a company named Commercial Television Ltd., which went out of business 3 years after.

The initial approval for the FTA licenses was won by and I-Cable (Fantastic TV) and PCCW, (NowTV), which is one of the largest IPTV providers worldwide, and the first to pass the 1 million subscriber mark nearly four years ago.

While both PCCW and I-Cable shares jumped on the news, Hong Kong Television Network Ltd. (HKTV, Wai-kay’s Hong Kong Television Network), saw its shares dropping more than 31% and said they will cut 320 jobs after its FTA permit application was rejected.

According to sources at SCMP:

A senior government source said a consultant’s report had shown HKTV, previously known as City Telecom, to be the weakest applicant, and that Exco approved the licences “on merit with no political considerations”.

But the rejection of HKTV’s application, which was against the Broadcasting Authority’s earlier recommendation that all three licences be granted, prompted a swift backlash. By 1.30am today, a Facebook page calling upon the government to issue a licence to HKTV had attracted some 256,000 “likes”. Internet users were also preparing a protest on Sunday.

Asked if the deviation from the Broadcasting Authority’s recommendation would be against procedural justice, So said the authority made recommendations not decisions. He said Exco had considered “a basket of criteria” including programme planning, technical soundness, investment and public opinion.

But he refused to explain why HKTV was considered inferior to its competitors. HKTV can’t appeal to Exco against the decision, but it can file a judicial review in court, he said.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong already has two FTA broadcasters (TVB and ATV), both are now challenging the government about why two contracts were awarded at all. They both fought against the governments consideration of 3 potential new licenses, and it seems that they at least for now, won the battle against Ricky Wong’s HKTV, (formerly called City Telecom, and now called HKTV, Wai-kay’s Hong Kong Television Network).

According to Bloomberg:

“We estimate new operators could launch the free-to-air TV services within 6-12 months and new competition could start as early as 2014,” Mandy Chan, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, wrote in a report. “We expect TVB to face challenges in keeping its near monopolistic hold of the Hong Kong free-to-air TV market.”

The awards to I-Cable’s Fantastic Television Ltd. and PCCW’s HK Television Entertainment Co. will double the number of free-to-air TV operators and bring in more investment, Commerce Secretary Gregory So said yesterday.

“This will not only provide more program choices for the audience, but also create more job opportunities in the creative industries,” So said at yesterday’s briefing.

Television Broadcasts’ flagship channel has a 93 percent audience share during prime time on weekdays, according to the company’s 2012 interim report.

Both TVB and ATV’s FTA licenses are due to expire in 2015, forcing them to re-apply in order to maintain it. Ricky Wong, the Telco entrepreneur in charge of Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) denied that he will re-apply for an FTA license or acquire either TVB or ATV at that time.

Netflix Threatened if Net Neutrality Dismantled

Can fixed broadband providers control what services flow through their networks? Verizon, One of the largest US internet providers is challenging the Open Internet rule adopted in 2010 by the Federal Communications Commission called “Net Neutrality”, which forbids Internet broadband providers from blocking or discriminating against services or content.

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Here is some of the dialogue taking place about his debate:

Sohn said that if Verizon has its way, it and other providers like Comcast or AT&T could “play favorites,” by blocking or degrading services such as YouTube or Netflix to promote their own offerings or that of their partners.

“Every user every day benefits from this rule (Net Neutrality) for the services they use, whether it’s YouTube or Twitter or something else,” Sohn told AFP.

But Verizon and its allies argue the FCC lacks authority to interfere with their business, and that Congress never decided these companies were regulated utilities or “common carriers.”

“It is not up to the FCC to decide these issues on its own,” said Verizon lawyer Helgi Walker, arguing the case before the US Court of Appeals in Washington earlier this month.

“It has no implied authority, no express authority…and it’s highly unlikely that Congress would have delegated authority in such a convoluted way.”.

The 2010 Net Neutrality decision only won by a 3-2 vote. It is therefore conceivable that as this new debate heats up, it could possibly be overturned. The ramifications could have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the world.

The European union is already also having it’s own debate. According to the New York Times:

European countries are similarly struggling with whether and how to regulate Internet service. The Netherlands has some wireless regulations in place, and France this year introduced strict anti-discrimination measures. But while European Union officials have voiced support for what is known as net neutrality, a recent proposal gives Internet providers great leeway.

Here is Wired Magazine’s article about the original suit filed by Verizon, and here is a recent article by Raw Story concerning where the issue resides.