|Randall on AT&T blocking the net|
|Thursday, 11 September 2008 14:38|
SBC Clamps Down on Outside Video
Randall Stephenson, now CEO of AT&T, controls Internet connection across the U.S. In case anyone doubts their talk of caps, here's an excerpt about what he said in several years ago. “Oh no,” SBC's #2, Randall Stephenson answered me on whether his DSL customers could watch live video beyond what SBC is selling. “We‘re going to control the video on our network. The content guys will have to make a deal with us.” Around the same time, Al Gore, a man who might be President, had to come hat in hand to Marilyn O'Connell of Verizon, seeking carriage of his Current TV channel on FIOS. She found it interesting, so the odds are good.
Something is inherently wrong if the crucial innovators on the net need to beg the carriers for basic freedom of speech. Peter Grant and Jesse Drucker Friday brought the issue of video blocking to the front page of the Wall Street Journal, changing the entire debate in Washington. It should now be hard for the AT&T deal to close without a clear solution. Martin is not joining to turn down the SBC - AT&T merger over this, although Stephenson's comment is a direct slap in the face. Nevertheless, he can, if only to prevent a delaying tie vote, demand a merger condition on this and the related open peering issue that is more than the usual meaningless statement. Courage Kevin, Katherine, Michael, and Jonathan - AT&T needs this merger, and there will never be a better time to stand for an important principle.
Where the net is open, we will have remarkable choices. Google, Yahoo, and many others have great plans we will be reporting. If not, we get the ugliest side of media concentration. SBC's Lea Ann Champion described their offering “Eighty percent of the channels come from about six companies.” This is media concentration at the ugliest.
There is no major technical or cost factor preventing SBC or Comcast keeping their network open, despite the carrier's attempt to spin. We have some of the hard data below, and much more to come.
SBC - First To Say Their Network Will Be Closed
Last year Mike Powell hit the roof when Grant and Latour reported the beginning of this story In the Wall Street Journal. Therefore, SBC responded with a clear statement, one of the best tests of net neutrality I have yet found.
“SBC does not plan to give meaningful preference (in terms of bandwidth allocation) to any particular video service or video content provider. ... We don't plan to limit access from computers or give bandwidth preference to content.”
That statement is now apparently inoperative.
I asked Randall Stephenson whether the Southern Baptist Church Channel, MovieLink, or Google will be able to send live video at full quality if they were not part of SBC's chosen programming. “Oh no!” was the answer I got, and feared. “They'll have to make a deal with us. We‘re going to control the video on our network.” Obviously, not all content producers will be allowed to make such a deal, and hence will not be available to SBC broadband customers. Instead, SBC will try to sell their cable-like program selection.
Selim Bingol of SBC claims that Randall's comments only pertained to what video is on their own offering, but that's simply not so. I made a point of saying I was discussing video delivered directly, specifically that not in their package. Selim wasn't there, I was, and so were others who can be asked about the conversation. I'm not misquoting.