Are you ready for some News Corp?

October 18, 2010

By Jerry Brito
Technology Liberation Front

Today’s hot topic is that thousands of Cablevision customers in New York were faced with blacked out News Corp. channels, including Fox, when the two companies were not able to come to an agreement on fees. As a result, Cablevision did not carry the Giants-Lions game and may not carry the next game against the Cowboys. Glee on Tuesday is certainly threatened, and I feel for Cablevision because I wouldn’t wish a spurned Glee fan’s wrath on anyone.

The beautiful thing about this event is that the FCC has put out a Consumer Advisoryenumerating all the various choices available to consumers. They can switch to a different pay service, and the FCC counts five: “AT&T, DIRECTV, DISH Network, RCN (limited areas of Brooklyn), and Verizon FIOS.” They can also tune in via over-the-air (rabbit ears) broadcast.

This hasn’t stopped Congress or “consumer advocates” from going apoplectic over American’s god-given right to the Simpsons. And, since it seems News Corp. cut access to Fox shows on Hulu.com and Fox.com for Cablevision internet service subscribers, they fear this is terrible violation of net neutrality.

Let’s put aside for a moment whether it’s a net neutrality violation or not since it’s difficult to tell what that means. (Notice that in this case is not big telecom carriers blocking access to content they don’t like, it’s a content provider blocking an ISP.) What exactly is the problem here?

Given that the FCC has helpfully pointed out all the options available to Consumers, there’s little chance that a consumer who wants to get Fox content won’t be able to do so. If Cablevision and News Corp. don’t come to an agreement, and Cablevision doesn’t carry Fox, consumers who value Fox will switch to a different service. The same goes for Internet service. The important issue here is not a universal human right to content or a net neutrality principle, but choice.

As long as there is market competition and consumer choice, we don’t need the FCC or Ed Markey to ensure that the we’ll get the Giants and the Cowboys in HD and Glee on Fox.com.

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