HBO on the Web
A lot of people are excited about the news today that HBO will be available without a cable television subscription. My excitement, unfortunately, has been tapered by skepticism. HBO CEO Richard Plepler said, “We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners.”
To me, this says that you’ll still have to go through your cable company in order to get HBO.
This is the first step toward “fast lanes” for internet connections. Cable companies are basically resellers of HBO accounts, and they are able to resell these accounts at an inflated price. In order to keep those (literally free) profits from going away due to dissatisfaction in service, ISPs might begin giving preferential treatment to HBO packets in order to keep the quality of service from degrading.
As video and audio quality increase, the need for more and more bandwidth increases as well. ISPs will have little motivation to upgrade their networks for services that they are not recieving some kind of profit for, so they will offer those services the same deal that HBO got: let us sell accounts for you (at an inflated price, of course), and get their own “fast lane”.
This is the very nature of Net Neutrality, and why this deal with HBO is potentially very dangerous for consumers. ISPs will be able to kink the connection between services that haven’t “partnered” with them and their customers, strong arming those services until they give up control and pay up.
ISPs would love to be the broker for all online content that you, the consumer, want. Their ideal world is one where you buy all of the content packages through them, just like how cable television works now. The difference this time is that it would encompass every aspect of your digital life: social networks, gaming, backups, video streaming. Imagine a world where, if you wanted any kind of online account, you had to go through TWC or Comcast in order to get it.