Comcast Pressures Netflix, Partner Level 3, to pay a bandwidth Toll

If anyone is at all wondering why Net Neutrality is essential to a free and open Internet I give you exhibit A

Level 3, who recently signed a deal to become the primary provider for streaming Netflix content, was pressured by Comcast to pay a “recurring fee” “to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content.” After a few days of negotiating, Level 3 paid the fee, ensuring uninterrupted service for Netflix subscribers.

via Comcast Is Bullying Netflix Partners Into Paying a Toll to Deliver Streaming Video.

Review: Huluplus on Roku

You may recall my exuberance when I heard that Huluplus would be available via the Roku DVP

The new Huluplus channel on Roku is now active. I dutifully signed up for plus account gave it a spin, and it frankly underwhelmed me. Yes, I already new that I would STILL have to put up with commercials even though I am already paying 8 bucks a month for the service.

The UI

I have two ROKU STBs, one of them is is hooked into a Standard Def 32in. CRT TV. Hulu looks HORRIBLE on a SD set. The fact that is not esthetically unpleasing means little to me, but  I am sitting with my nose practically on the screen just trying to read the thing. It looks like they took the wide screen UI and shrunk it down until it fit on a CRT TV. A big UI no no.

I will say on my 42 in flat screen it looks AMAZING. I think they did a successful job of recreating the web UI on the HD TV. Which is a plus and a minus, because they broke some UI conventions established by the Roku to produce the new screen so it took me a minute figure out how the Navigation works, easily forgiven because it looks great.

The TV Offerings

… Suck!!
Of the NEW TV offerings, they have that nothing isn’t available over the air. Even though News Corp. is an owner, I didn’t see anything from FX, like “Damages” or “Sons of Anarchy.” I couldn’t even see a vintage ep of “The Shield.” How is it that a service OWNED by TV networks has such a poor selection of TV shows.

The Movie Offerings

… SUCK MORE!! In all honesty it shouldn’t even be a category. There is nothing remotely interesting to the average TV/Movie watcher. Again this is a service owned by media companies that own studios. And there are NO decent movies?? AT ALL?? All they have are a few documentaries, some foreign stuff, and some REALLY old stuff and some REALLY weird stuff and Some stuff I hope my children won’t find. Which brings me to the NEXT problem…

Profiles and parental controls
There are none. I don’t want my 10 year old surfing around hulu and stumble apon (these are real titles) “Killer Condom” and “Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell.”

Web only show
This makes no sense to me. They have some shows that they will ONLY let you watch in your web browser. Even though I am paying for the right to put it on my bug screen they won’t let me. Look. I love my computer. I love all it can do. I think it is great to be able to watch TV on your computer. I have been waiting for this capability for 20 years. But Like eveybody, I prefer to watch TV ON MY TV. The fact I can’t lean back on couch and watch what’s is left of the not returning “Undercovers” on my TV after paying it’s network 8 bucks a month, is just STUPID to me.

Video Quality
The video quality for most of there content is good to GREAT. I watched the pilot ep from LOST and was very impressed. I don’t think I had seen it in HD before. I was startled. Not only that but you can actually get the subtitles, which is great for the, deaf hard of hearing, and those with kids. I fall in the latter category.

Conclusion
Technologically, it is a great product. Video quality is great. UI is great. They made improvements on the Roku UI. I can even forgive them for SD mistake. The SD model DVP isn’t even being sold by Roku anymore. But the most serious issues I have with huluplus are mistakes of will not of execution. There are things they could have done which they simply decided not to do. They decided not to let me watch every show that is available on hululplus on my TV. They decided ONLY to add shows that are available on their broadcasts networks. And limited the content of many of them. They decided not to add ANY movies I might want to see. Adding all of these factor it makes huluplus less useful, than my DVR and twice as expensive. Under those circumstances I can not recommend paying for this service, for the Roku itself. Huluplus is available on other devices in including mobile devices. If you get value that way adding is not going to cost you anything more. But if you are getting this as part of you solution to replacing cable, than I suggest you get a roof antenna and MythTV box. Which is probably what I’ll end up doing.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

COICA passes out of committee in the Senate

Every time a lawmaker gets ready to put forth legislation that effects the Internet I wince. This is because I know it was written in large part for large for-profit companies that wish to thwart the inevitable disruption of their business models at the expense of true innovation. Case in point:

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) sets up a system through which the US government can blacklist a pirate website from the Domain Name System, ban credit card companies from processing US payments to the site, and forbid online ad networks from working with the site. This morning, COICA unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

via Pirate-slaying censorship bill gets unanimous support.

If the Federal Gov’t believes that a site is “dedicated to infringing activities” this bill gives it the power to :

  • order DNSs in the US to not resolve the sites domain
  • prevent companies that process monetary transactions to the site
  • prevent ad networks (like adwords) from display ads on those domains

These measures would be extremely Draconian, if they weren’t so friggin useless. While the first measure effect every ISP’s DNS in America, it doesn’t effect personal DNS’s like the one I have in my house. Secondly it is my experience that MOST of pirate networks don’t ask for payment from its members so I don’t know how may fish you are foing to catch with that net. And Lastly, There are SOOOOO many ad networks outside of the US, I doubt they will see a dent in there revenues.

To the RIAA and MPAA:
You are not just fighting pirates. You are fighting a business model, which you only strengthen when you send governments to squash your competition instead of doing what you apparently haven’t the imagination to do, find a model that works in an environment where your content will be heavily pirated.