Fox to restore Internet videos to Cablevision customers [Washington Post]
Fox escalated their war with Cablevision yesterday, taking the television battle to the Internet. For a few hours, in an apparent effort to increase their negotiating leverage for a retransmission deal, Fox blocked all Cablevision's Optimum Online IP addresses from accessing the network's programming posted on websites like Hulu and Fox.com.
The move outraged lawmakers, including Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) who are concerned about net neutrality principles, according to Multichannel News. Fox reversed course and stopped blocking Cablevision customers, stating that they didn't want to punish Optimum Online customers who do not subscribe to Cablevision's TV service. But the move came right after a flood of harsh criticism was leveled against the network.
Fox's action highlights one of the main arguments that distributors are making against higher retransmission fees to networks -- that television network programs posted on websites shortly after their initial airing devalues the main networks' value to consumers. They argue that consumers should not be forced to pay high prices for programming they can watch for free within 24 hours.
Fox's move challenged the principles of Net Neutrality. Cable and phone companies have voluntarily agreed principles of Net Neutrality for years. Indeed, every major Internet service provider provides open access to all legal content on the Internet. As a result, they argue that there is no need for imposing new government regulations to fix an extremely complex issue, raising concerns that unnecessary regulations are fraught with unintended side effects.
Yesterday's example of blocking should not result in imposing new regulations that impact distributors. After all, no distributor, including Cablevision, broke their promise of voluntary net neutrality principles. It does, however, raise the question of whether content providers should be pressured to agree to the same voluntary policy to keep the Internet open.
Meanwhile, back on the main battlefield, Fox remains missing from Cablevision homes this morning. Customers were not able to watch the Philadelphia Phillies - SF Giants game last night. Today, unless an agreement is reached, they will miss the NY Giants playing the Detroit Lions this afternoon and Game 2 of the Phillies - Giants series tonight.
Although they can't see the sporting events, at least they can go online and watch their favorite Fox entertainment programs on Fox.com and Hulu.