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January 19, 2013  /   No Comments

The Saturday Spot: Will Verizon’s Six Strike Policy Hold?

In the newest iteration of The Saturday Spot, our writer talks about how you naughty copyright infringers might be in trouble with Verizon later this year as well as touch on two monopolies that operate in a country that hates monopolies.

This week I step a little bit outside the norm and discuss two factors that affect how you may receive your television content rather than talk about the content itself. The long in the making “six strike policy” from Verizon has been leaked to the internet and I decide to talk about it as I am a FiOS customer myself. I also decide to talk about how some customers just aren’t in luck when it comes to choosing a cable provider as they may have no choice.


Basically, You Can Strike Out Twice Before You’re Cut…

In baseball, six strikes (two strikeouts) may be something that happens to just any batter. In stealing content from the internet, six strikes could cause you to go back to the days of dial up speeds – if you are a Verizon customer. There’s no denying that stealing content off the internet is a trend. Not everyone does it, but it’s not something that goes unnoticed. Not all my friends subscribe to HBO, but they all talk about the current episode of Game of Thrones. How is this possible?

Viewing party? Maybe.

In most cases, my friends likely took to the internet to download the episode or watch it on an illegal stream. Getting a show off the internet is as easy as buying a gun, if not easier. There’s literally hundreds of ways to get it, from torrent sites directly, to torrent downloaders. Even some of the more popular legit streaming sites (like Justin.tv) house dozens of illegal streams. Some channels get shut down, but it’s easy just to create a new one and show off the same content in a mere few minutes.

For the last couple of years we kept reading about how companies like Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast, etc… are trying to find ways to reduce the amount of stolen content downloaded on their networks to make for happier feds but at the same time not losing their customers. I know plenty of people who have cut cable completely from their households only to subscribe to stand alone internet and watch TV all through their computers. Some decided to rely solely on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle – apps like these for their entertainment. Legit ways. Others, decide to use the easy access to the net to get shows at no additional cost or monthly fees.

Verizon has been rambling on about this “Six Strike Policy” for months now. It’s been delayed numerous times but is now slated to affect subscribers later this year. You can read the full contents of the policy over at TorrentFreak. Basically here are the essentials you want to know:

For your first two alleged copyright violations, Verizon will send out an email and a voice message informing them that “one or more copyright owners have reported that they believe your account has been involved in possible copyright infringement activity.” For your third and fourth alleged violations, Verizon will “redirect your browser to a special web page where you can review and acknowledge receiving the (previous) alerts” and will also “provide a short video about copyright law and the consequences of copyright infringement.”

Now here’s where it really starts to affect you – after the fifth and sixth alleged violations, Verizon gives the users the option of having their speed cut down to 256Kbps for a limited time. If they continue to rack up violations after that, reports TorrentFreak, then the MPAA and RIAA can obtain a court order forcing Verizon to hand over “the IP-addresses of such repeat infringers in order to take legal action against them.”

There’s numerous flaws with this policy, one being that it all depends on what Verizon considers to be an allegation. Is watching a show on YouTube that isn’t supposed to be on there considered an allegation? After all, YouTube is one of the most popular websites out there – isn’t the responsibility of Google to make sure illegal content isn’t on that service? The same can be said about Justin.tv. It’s a legit site – it was the origins of the growing video game streaming site Twitch.tv and houses a social network where users can post non-adult webcam streams. Justin.tv has dozens of illegal streams on their Entertainment section – will Verizon customers be considered stealing copyrighted material on there as well?

At the same time, you can’t help but to think Verizon is also trying to save their business end by giving users six chances. The first four are mere warnings of possible infringements. It’s not until your fifth and sixth warnings do you stand the chance of getting reduced speeds and possible action from the RIAA and the MPAA.

Here’s where the policy might face some legal issues – it all depends on what Verizon and other companies that use this type of policy consider to be violations. Again, look back and two examples I’ve already used. There’s legit sites that house illegal content – is that the users fault or the host fault? I can see where you can penalize those who upload the illegal content to such sites, but what if we are just a viewer? What will and will not hold up in court?

I can understand that cable is only rising in cost these days (I’ll touch on that in the next segment of the article), but should you put yourself in ‘legal woes alley’ just to save some dollars?

What’s your take on this six strike policy? Will it hold up or will Verizon fold the idea due to just too many clouds hanging over it?


Sometimes You Just Don’t Have a Choice…

According to Susan Crawford in an interview on NPR, the two biggest internet monopolies in the United States are Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Both of which I can agree with just from living in two of the areas where this is obvious. I grew up in a small suburb outside of Buffalo, NY. The only option for internet and TV access was Time Warner. Sure, it’s not some small company, it’s a large business that operates across the nation. The problem is, we have no say or choice when it comes to who provides us with TV and internet here.

Essentially, Time Warner operates a monopoly here. I’ve done dozens of speed tests here in my most recent visit and the average download speed ranges between 6-8 mbps (megabits per second), and the upload is a dismal 0.5 – 1.0 mbps. During off peak hours I have seen download speeds hit the mid 20s, but the upload remain the same. So during peak hours, the download speed just manages to hit what Netflix minimally requires. If you plan to do something else on the net that requires decent bandwidth while viewing Netflix, forget it.

Time Warner did offer to raise the speed up 5 mbps (no guarantee it will give a solid 5 mbps more) for an additional $15 more. Really? For $15 more a month, roughly 25% of the current bill, you may be able to raise the speed to achieve 13 mbps during peak?

My parents still live in the Buffalo suburb, I have since moved to an outside city of Boston. I’m fortunate as in my current location I have a choice between Comcast and Verizon FiOS. I chose FiOS because while they are more pricey, they do offer more and I have better service with them. Some prefer Comcast, and that’s fine. We are given a choice. However, if you live more towards Boston or in Boston, you don’t get a choice. Comcast is the main provider of internet and TV services in Boston. You’re stuck with it. I’ve asked almost all of my friends who live in Boston – they all want FiOS in the area. Some areas do allow Verizon DSL, but’s a downgrade to what Comcast gives you.

FiOS is a bit tricky as it runs fiber optic, which is a little different than how your normal broadband provider operates. I don’t necessarily think Boston needs FiOS, but they could use other broadband options for thus stuck with Comcast. Give consumers a choice – don’t force them on one particular product. Isn’t that what our economy is all about in the most basic fashion – giving consumers a choice?

Are you one of those stuck with just one service and having no other options? Maybe Google will bring it’s super fast, highly praised Google Fiber service to your area. Doubtful, but hey, there’s hope.

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