Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Net-neutrality, AppleTV and just what did Steve Jobs 'crack' then?

But you have cable TV, right?
We have two main competing ISPs [Telecom and Vodafone] offering set-top boxes that record and time-shift content from a single cable-TV style provider - SkyTV. The hardware they provide represents varying levels of competence and reliability and require extra fees to enable the viewing of hi-def channels, all in the context of constant ad-breaks and promos for other content. But enough moaning, it's clear that business model is coming to an end, however all too slowly.

I'm just about ready to be a cord-cutter. But here in NZ, data access and bandwidth caps produce hesitation in anyone who is not interested in paying additional $$$ in monthly bills to their ISP. Apple and other content providers still don't make legally available anything near the range of TV-series available like there is in Australia due to distribution deals with SkyTV. And I don't fancy having multiple iTunes accounts, VPN access and having to pay a stranger on Ebay a fee to buy a US iTunes voucher for me, scratch off the number and email it to me so I can buy content semi-legally in a timely fashion.

Seriously, when can I give money to the people who make the content and have them make it available when it's ready? It's 2014!! I'm moaning again. Sorry. The Oatmeal sums it up fantastically if you haven't already seen it.



So we began renting movies that are available through iTunes instead of physical media [DVDs, Bluray discs] through our local movie rental shop. At first, the iTunes delivery is stable and great. We have a 40mb cable modem connection which is more than enough to stream a 720p movie [even with a 15min wait at the start]. But about a year ago, quality of service from iTunes began to drop, with movies we rented pausing 2/3rds through and demanding we wait 20 mins for buffering. Why? Don't we have a fast enough internet connection for this?

Enter the Net-Neutrality debate.

From Wikipedia: Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.

As the internet is increasingly invaded commercially, we've all long suspected ISPs of being vulnerable to 'shaping' traffic volumes where they perhaps shouldn't. Recently this is a hotly debated topic in the US and the forces for and against net-neutrality are slugging it out, with consumers wearing any fallout.

On January 14, 2014, the DC Circuit Court determined that the FCC has no authority to enforce Network Neutrality rules, as service providers are not identified as "common carriers".

I don't know how this is going to play out, but I'm on the side of legislation that protects the internet from too much commercial influence and perpetuates the abilities of anyone to use it fairly as a communication medium, from freedom-fighters to Facebook, Twitter to TradeMe and back. You wouldn't want to have to pay your ISP for top-tier access to your favourite sites on top of monthly access and bandwidth caps would you? Me neither. We've all had enough of 'over-the-top' services from cell providers huh. Dumb-pipes await.

A few days ago, BoingBoing covered the discovery by an independent blogger that Verizon in the US are aggressively throttling Netflix traffic. This blogger, Dave Raphael manages to capture the discussion with a Verizon tech representative where it's admitted that this is in fact what is going on:


So what's this got to do with AppleTV then?

Well back when I bought AppleTV [2nd gen], I was high on the hope Steve Jobs was about to unveil an app store for it and we'd be able to do some of the things we do on the phone/iPad on the TV. That never came to pass, but Steve did, and all we were left with was the notion he'd 'cracked' it and we'd soon be blessed by something much better. And it's been just that, a notion.

Slowly Apple have been adding channels to AppleTV over the last two years. My impression was that this was the thin end of the wedge and that Apple were collecting content makers together one by one to quietly begin to be able much more varied and higher quality offerings than our traditional providers. Yet nothing has really materialised in terms of hardware despite rumours about large screens, 4k displays, bezel-free designs, magical remote control rings etc. Other rumours suggest Apple are hard at work tying up agreements and making deals behind closed doors, getting ready to do to TV what iTunes did to music sales.

Then this report surfaces on MacRumours detailing Apple's progress on building their own content delivery network:

http://www.macrumors.com/2014/02/03/apple-developing-cdn/

"Apple built its retail store chain because Steve Jobs wanted to own Apple's interactions with its customers. With iTunes and iCloud, Apple controls the data and the service, but must outsource the less visible but still incredibly important job of reliably delivering data packets to users. With hundreds of millions of users downloading apps, music, TV shows and movies -- with many of those being streamed in real-time to the Apple TV -- ensuring quality of service for all users will be essential. "

And now I understand. Apple have already made the assumption that net-neutrality is going down the drain and are positioning themselves to be able to guarantee quality of service to their customers with their own content delivery system. And as Apple are a company that prefer to have all their ducks in a row before rolling out a new product [well not always], I don't believe we'll see any large announcements about AppleTV or channels before these infrastructure updates are complete.

Given the timeline for the data-centre completions and the focus on a watch-style product right now and new iPhone6 rumours, I don't see TV announcements on the horizon for another year at least. Maybe I'm wrong, but, I don't think so. Looking forward to ditching the cable box though.

Update: It's 2015 and nothing has changed regarding Apple's approach to TV. It's effectively still a hobby for them. The iPhone6 is here, the watch is about to hit and no TV in sight.

-j

Wouldn't it be great if these services were available in NZ without using a VPN?







2 comments:

  1. Great article Julian. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Apple TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A credit may even now be given, yet the intrigue charged might be higher. The more terrible the credit, the higher the intrigue charged on the advance. Making an up front installment diminishes the regularly scheduled installments in intrigue. Be that as it may, missing an installment or paying not as much as the due installments will prompt to a genuine inflatable installment toward the finish of the term. Car Title Loans Chicago

    ReplyDelete