Friday, April 9, 2010

Comcast is pretty stupid

I've been trying to find time to write a piece on why 3D is already doomed, but Comcast is contributing to it...

Property The Daily Gamecock

Comcast is having quite the week. The media provider is pushing boundaries and buttons left and right, but they’ve been at the heart of two key moments over the last several days, both on television and on the Internet.

As far as television goes, Comcast has worked out a way to dedicate two hours of 3D coverage a day to the Masters, making it the first time a national sports broadcast will be shown in the new format.

Of course, viewers will only see the Masters in 3D if they have a special 3D television and glasses, making the experience only possible for the very select few who have access to the expensive technology.

Additionally, Comcast will offer a 3D stream to view online but that again will require a 3D media player, 3D monitor and 3D glasses.

This is only the latest extension of the seeming fetishistic relationship numerous media outlets are currently forming around 3D. Of course, it begs the question of whether or not all this 3D is really worth it. Paying a few extra dollars to get an added dimension of “How to Train Your Dragon” is one thing but investing hundreds of dollars to get the gimmick in your home seems a little ridiculous.

Besides, golf doesn’t exactly offer dozens of exciting angles to really make the experience transcendental.

While Comcast’s decision has certainly sparked debates among tech circles, it pales in comparison to the court decision handed out in a contested issue over Internet practice between Comcast and the FCC.

The Federal Communications Commission took issue with a method of controlling Internet traffic Comcast was employing on its subscribers. “Net neutrality,” as it has been named, argues that Internet traffic should be as equivalent as technologically possible across all Web sites.

As an Internet service provider, Comcast is attempting to slow down certain content providers and sites, typically in the form of bit torrents, to deter users from accessing certain areas in favor of others.

A U.S. court ruled in favor of Comcast, saying that federal regulators could not interfere in how the business chose to influence its Internet traffic.

While this may seem unfair, Comcast is still only one of many Internet options, and it is still — by virtue of its title — providing a service. Like most businesses, they can choose how to provide that service.

The tricky grey area comes in where Comcast’s status as an Internet service provider and cable company start to blur. For example, Comcast’s recent move to acquire NBC means that if they were successful, they would be able to control a content generator (e.g. they make television shows) that is then broadcast over their cable and Internet services.

So were Comcast to gain NBC, and were the court’s decision on net neutrality to stand over time, Comcast could speed up traffic on Hulu — where NBC shows are available to stream — and slow it on alternative video stream sites, essentially forcing subscribers to choose the one that most benefits Comcast.

Of course, this is all hypothetical, but it’s certainly clear that Comcast is playing big risks, gambling on how they can manipulate the Internet and utilize the emerging 3D technologies on platforms other than cinema.

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