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Sun, 03 Jul 2011

"Over The Top" Television


In Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2009-329, the Commission set out the results of its review of broadcasting in new media. This was followed by Broadcasting Order 2009-660, which amended, clarified and affirmed the continued appropriateness of the New Media Exemption Order applied to new media broadcasting undertakings. Since then, there has been an acceleration of technological, market and consumer behaviour trends that may influence the Canadian broadcasting system's ability to achieve the policy objectives of the Broadcasting Act. Increasingly, programming is being provided by entities on multiple platforms and separate from the physical infrastructure over which it is delivered. These "over-the-top" entities are both foreign and domestic.

1. My name is Michael Richardson. I am chief scientist of Sandelman Software Works. I am writing today about your consultation about "Over-The-Top" television, such as "netflix" and others like this. I am a pioneer of the Internet, my use of it dates back to 1987. I am active participant in the Internet Engineering Task Force, and I've authored a number of RFCs in the security field.

2. I find the entire question about "over-the-top" to itself be indicative of a bias to begin with. My question was, over top of what? I get as much television "over" Canada Post as I do "over-the-air".

3. The Internet does not run on top of other things, more and more, other things run on top of the Internet. Neither incumbent cable or telephone companies have been competent enough to supply my home office for internet. My family that has tried them for Internet has found their service to be lacking, and have gone to reliable Internet suppliers, ones that are not vertically integrated and therefore do not have a bias against other things.

4. Since 1995, I have not subscribed to "cable" TV. I tried microwave (LOOK), but when I moved it was not available, and then I went to satellite (Star Choice, now Shaw). Since it became Shaw, my level of service has steadily declined, while my rates have gone up. My family uses the satellite TV less and less (we are now on the lowest tier subscription, primary for US Network channels) and relies on DVD delivery from ZIP and netflix over my bridged-DSL connection with Storm Internet.

5. Netflix has reported "problems" with Canadian residential internet connections. I have none. I do not use an incumbent telco with a competing service as my supplier. Please connect the dots.

6. I do not use "HD" services at this time, as I have no TVs like that. I consider current HD TV systems to be too inflexible and yet too complicated for my use. When the time comes, I will replace the "screens" in my home with dumb computer-grade displays, connected to media boxes running open standard systems.

7. The available content on Netflix leaves a lot to be desired. The amount in Canada, I'm told is much less than in the US due to licensing problems. This upsets me greatly: I would like to see a mandatory licensing regime that seperated who I choose to deliver the content I want, from what content is available.

8. Netflix offers a service that apparently permits some Apple and some Microsoft users to watch television their computers. This system uses a proprietary copyright infringing system to display the content. I say that it infringes the copyright laws because it appears that this "Digital Rights Management" system in fact denies me rights that I would have on other systems. This system is incompatible with non-Microsoft systems (tied selling) such as Ubuntu Linux that runs at my house.

9. We happen to have a Nintendo WII game console that has a netflix system for it, and I'm told that the Netflix application for it may also contain DRM. However, the output of my WII is a DRM-free analogue signal, and therefore my rights are identical with this system as they would be with broadcast television.

10. I am preparing myself for ATSC. I intend to put an antenna on my roof to receive US Network Channels from Rochester NY, and along with an ATSC tuner on each of my three TVs, I should be able to get Ottawa broadcast channels from Camp Fortune. At that point I will stop subscribing to satellite service: they have provided me with essentially no value.

11. At this point, what I would like is the ability to pay for the content that I want. I would like to be able to vote with my wallet, rather than have the CRTC tell me. I expect some service (such as Netflix, or a competitor) to offer to intermediate my transactions, reducing the cost of the transaction, and dealing the production studios directly.

12. I would like to:

a) provide a tip of approximately 0.25 for a show that I like. This would be voluntary by me. I would do this because I want them to produce more like it. I want to do this even for shows that might have been out of "print" for a long time, for instance Threes Company, or old episodes of Sesame Street, which continue to have significant value. Right now, at most, I can provide a "star" rating.

b) provide a bond (a promise) that I would tip for more episodes of a series that I like. This removes the role of the executives of i) the incument cable/satellite companies, ii) the specialty channels. who it seems continue to be reluctant to take risks, and have significantly disrupted shows with significant fan bases with very good writing. If this scares these companies, tough. The CRTC has no mandate to protect companies with out-dated business plans.

c) provide a tip to a "network" such as CBCKids who might provide me with a playlist of shows to watch and timely interactive ways to engage kids. Note I would be tipping for the playlist (a list of recommendations) not for the shows themselves.

13. This is particularly important to me for children's shows, as I will only let me child watch the TV stations that do not feature advertising.

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