Data-Cap Exemption For ESPN Raises Neutrality Concerns

The sports network ESPN reportedly is talking with a major wireless carrier about a deal to exclude the networks' programs from the monthly data caps, according to The Wall Street Journal. If a deal to that effect goes through, consumers would be able to watch as much ESPN as they want without worrying about whether they're going to be throttled or hit with extra fees for exceeding their monthly data allotment.

In some ways, that type of deal could benefit consumers, who are streaming more and more video to smartphones and tablets. But it also could harm smaller companies that  offer streaming video but can't pay large fees to the carriers. Content from that group of companies would remain subject to data caps, which could discourage people from streaming it -- or at least streaming as much of it as material that isn't capped.

In that sense, a deal between ESPN and carriers raises some of the same issues as Comcast's decision to let Xfinity subscribers stream unlimited video to their Xboxes.  That arrangement appears good for subscribers, but not so great for Netflix, Hulu and other online video providers -- who are now at a disadvantage because their streams still count toward a monthly maximum.

Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge -- which loudly opposes carriers' attempts to impose data caps -- says that news of ESPN's talks with a wireless company highlights the problems with limits on data consumption. The group points out that data caps can effectively undercut neutrality rules, which are supposed to prevent carriers from blocking content.

“At its core, net neutrality is all about making sure that the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet,” the group says. “Imposing data caps on consumers and then allowing wealthy content holders to buy their way around them is a recipe for stagnation online.”

2 comments about "Data-Cap Exemption For ESPN Raises Neutrality Concerns ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360, May 10, 2013 at 7:02 p.m.

    Have the lobbyists come up with a definition for 'net neutrality' that everyone can agree with? According to your article, Public Knowledge is saying 'net neutrality is ... making sure the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet' -- which is a novel interpretation for anyone that cares to Google its tortuous history. Compare it to the net neutrality definition that most lawmakers and companies agree with: "you shall not prioritize one company's '____' bits over another company's '_____' bits" (fill in the blank with 'video' 'news' 'chat' etc.).

  2. Bill Guild from ChoiceStream, May 11, 2013 at 7:23 a.m.

    We have complete traffic neutrality on our highways and look how well our road system serves the public through established and startup enterprises. However, the public pays for the roads. If the government paid for the internet true net neutrality would be established. Until then, somebody must pay for the extra bandwidth needed to stream all of the content. If a content company wants to pay a carrier to deliver their content, I think they should be allowed. Think FedEx and UPS. After all, it is this type of commerce that funds the internet and keeps it competitive. Competition ultimately enables the public to vote with their wallet, and that drives all innovation, including the internet.
    On the other hand, frequencies are limited and access to them constitutes a partial monopoly which governments should regulate. Net neutrality is a good thing and shouldn't be abandoned, but a hybrid model seems to be in order. Let's find a way for ESPN and other like them to fund the next build-out of infrastructure while preserving the ability for small players to gain a foothold in the system. After all, that also drives competition and innovation.

Next story loading loading..