Censorship, Extortion and Discrimination, Oh My!

Some more examples of what happens to internet-based communications when they filter through various points of control.
In the Machinist blog at Salon, Farhad Manjoo reports on British ISPs attempting to shake down the BBC, Is network neutrality a fake issue? Not if you want to watch the BBC: “As several British papers reported over the weekend, large ISPs have threatened to shut down people’s access to the BBC’s online videos — unless, of course, the BBC pays the ISPs a fee.”
AT&T’s censorship of “controversial political speech” in a Pearl Jam concert was apparently not an isolated incident. The Daily Swarm is collecting reports of other streams of performances where AT&T edited poltical speech out of webcasts, The Blue Room: Who else did AT&T censor?
Eliot Van Buskirk is also covering the story in detail at his Wired blog: Crew Member: Previous AT&T Show Had “No Politics” Policy: “A crew member who worked on a show webcast by AT&T confirmed that there was a policy in place to remove artists’ political comments from shows before they were webcast.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, AT&T apologizes for censoring performer webcasts: “In response to fans who claimed that the audio silencing of Vedder’s sung remarks about Bush at Lollapalooza were not unique in the history of AT&T’s Blue Room live webcasts, an AT&T spokeswoman on Friday said: ‘It’s not our intent to edit political comments in webcasts on the attblueroom.com. Unfortunately, it has happened in the past in a handful of cases. We have taken steps to ensure that it won’t happen again.'”
In an imperfectly competitive world without regulation, network providers have the power to not only choose to restrict certain political speech, but also to affect competition in related markets. At NewTeeVee, Jackson West discusses the problem that p2p online video network Joost faces in the US– lack of bandwidth The Joost Problem: American ‘Broadband’: “The fundamental problem that Joost faces is the fact that the broadband available to North American households simply isn’t fast enough for them to provide image quality comparable to digital cable or satellite, much less high-definition video.” And while broadband providers might add bandwidth, they might also have the incentive to discriminate against other bandwidth-intensive content providers who compete with their own offerings. After all, bandwidth isn’t cheap. West continues, “Why should companies like Comcast offer the kind of high speed broadband enjoyed in Europe and Asia when it would simply enable companies like Joost to compete with the company’s own digital video offerings?”