Compare/Contrast

On Thursday morning, the House Judiciary Committee will have a full committee markup of the latest version of H.R. 3261 the Stop Online Piracy Act. Here’s some initial analysis from Mike Masnick at Techdirt Lamar Smith Proposes New Version Of SOPA, With Just A Few Changes.
Today, comedian Louis C.K. released his latest standup special, filmed earlier this year at the Beacon Theater in New York, NY as a simple $5 direct download. No DRM, payment simply through Paypal. He’s aware of the risk of piracy and believes that simply offering a product that’s inexpensive and simple enough that it’s a better customer experience.
I hosted a podcast discussion that I’ll be posting later this week — one of the topics we discussed was the fact that a torrent download offers the best viewing experience for any way of watching television programming. (None of the glitches of streaming, none of the commercials of broadcast and none of the interminably long menus of DVDs and Blu-Rays.) Probably the only other one that compares is iTunes (which has the disadvantage of being the most expensive way to watch lots of television.)
Is the best way to compete with casual infringements simply to offer the best experience?

The New Digital Divide

Susan Crawford in the New York Times on The New Digital Divide:

“While we still talk about “the” Internet, we increasingly have two separate access marketplaces: high-speed wired and second-class wireless. High-speed access is a superhighway for those who can afford it, while racial minorities and poorer and rural Americans must make do with a bike path…
“Over the last 10 years, we have deregulated high-speed Internet access in the hope that competition among providers would protect consumers. The result? We now have neither a functioning competitive market for high-speed wired Internet access nor government oversight.”

The market for dial-up internet access was competitive. The market for broadband access isn’t. And without competition, incumbents can simply charge a prevailing rate. There’s no incentive for competition, because it’s not like a homeowner can simply switch from Time Warner to Comcast without moving to a new house that is in a Comcast service area. Competition spurs innovation and reduces rent-taking. A market needs either tight regulation or stiff competition. Home broadband providers are shielded form both.