Author Archives: Peter Nowak

With net neutrality dead, will Netflix go cable?

President Barack Obama and FCC head Tom Wheeler in happier times.

President Barack Obama and FCC head Tom Wheeler in happier times.

Everyone keeps waiting for HBO to “pull a Netflix,” where the channel would decouple itself from traditional television service providers and go online only. Given the nonsense that’s going on with net neutrality and regulators in the United States, at this point it’s more likely the reverse will happen. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Netflix give up on online and “pull an HBO,” whereby it becomes just another channel in an overpriced monthly TV package.

On Wednesday, news broke that the Federal Communications Commission is planning to introduce “pay-to-play” rules for internet companies, whereby cable and phone companies will be allowed to charge them extra for better connectivity. This would essentially enshrine the recent controversial Netflix-Comcast deal within actual rules. It was controversial because Comcast degraded Netflix’s quality to the point where the streaming company was forced to pony up. Comcast and other big ISPs have long complained about such services supposedly getting a “free ride” on their networks.

The news set the internet alight, with various voices proclaiming that FCC head Tom Wheeler – a former cable industry lobbyist who was recently appointed to the job by President Barack Obama – had just driven a stake through the heart of net neutrality. It is, of course, that ephemeral principle that all internet traffic should be treated more or less equally so that the guy sitting in his basement with an idea for a startup has the same chance at succeeding as a giant company like Netflix or Google does. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in comcast, net neutrality, netflix


Does anyone really want ‘social TV’ and its spoilers?

The Empire Strikes Back shocker: could it be possible today?

The Empire Strikes Back shocker: could it be possible today?

Back in the days when there were video stores, imagine somebody had walked into one and shouted, “Darth is Luke’s father!” or “Bruce Willis is dead all along!” If you hadn’t seen those particular movies – The Empire Strikes Back and The Sixth Sense, respectively – you might be inclined to punch that person in the face for senselessly broadcasting key plot spoilers. This is why sane people generally didn’t do such inconsiderate and dumb things (I’m mentioning them here because, as older movies, they passed an acceptable statute of limitations some time ago).

Fast forward to today and many people have no such compunctions. Social media is rife with people sharing spoilers of movies and especially TV shows without any consideration that they’re indeed broadcasting such information to plenty of people who definitely don’t want to hear it.

Case in point: Game of Thrones. I’m a fan of the show, but I never watch it until a full season has aired. With a complex plot and so many disparate characters, I find that binge-watching episodes is the only way to keep track of what’s going on. That means purposely staying away from spoilers for a good 10 weeks, which is next to impossible thanks to Twitter and Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Facebook, Twitter, television


Netflix and the fine line between it and piracy

netflix-hemlock-groveTo the surprise of virtually no one, Netflix is raising prices. And soon – within the next few months in some places, according to financial results released by the company on Monday:

Our current view is to do a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only. Existing members would stay at current pricing (e.g. $7.99 in the U.S.) for a generous time period. These changes will enable us to acquire more content and deliver an even better streaming experience.

That “generous time period” could be two years, if the Irish experience is anything to go by. Netflix raised its subscription price in Ireland by one euro to €7.99 in January, which resulted in “limited impact.”

While few observers believed such low subscription costs could be sustained for long, Netflix does have to tread carefully. The streaming service straddles a fine line between expensive cable TV services at one end and free file-sharing at the other. It’s only been a few short years since the company emerged as Hollywood’s antidote to that perceived scourge. Over that time, it has converted more than 35 million potential file sharers into customers who are at least paying something for some of the shows and movies they watch. While file-sharing used to account for the largest share of Internet traffic, it’s now Netflix that accounts for about a third of all bandwidth usage.

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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in comcast, netflix, piracy


Ottawa’s best option: Let Mobilicity die

mobilicityTelus is trying yet again to acquire struggling wireless company Mobilicity in a deal worth $350 million after being rebuffed by the federal government twice last year. The difference this time? The moratorium on spectrum transfers from so-called new entrants to big carriers that began five years ago is now up.

Under those original rules, Telus or any of the two other big cellphone companies (Bell or Rogers) would have been free to acquire Mobilicity and its prized airwaves, or even Wind Mobile for that matter, as of early this year. But in June last year, the government changed all that with a new set of rules that gave it the power to review all spectrum transfers. In no uncertain terms, Industry Minister James Moore has repeatedly and ardently stated, “We will not approve any spectrum transfer request that results in excessive spectrum concentration for Canada’s largest wireless companies, which negatively affects competition in the telecommunications sector.”

Not surprisingly, Bay Street is trying to make a case for why the Mobilicity sale should be allowed. Telus would get to take out a competitor – more on this in a second – and it’s also the best possible outcome for the smaller company’s investors. To this extent, some financial analysts are even overstepping their roles in trying to give Moore and the government a face-saving out. As TD Securities analysts wrote in a note to clients last week: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 21, 2014 in telecom, telus


Easter: a time for skills renewal

sbb-screenLast week I lamented the dark clouds swirling over the profession of journalism; what with the continual layoffs, frequent rejection and criticism from the public, it’s not what most people would consider to be a great job. As with people working in many fields that have been disrupted by the internet, today’s journalists need to learn new skills to remain employable – and competitive – in these turbulent times.

In a religious sense Easter is a time of renewal, but on a personal level I’m also trying to drink my own Kool Aid, which is why I recently took a course on how to use WordPress, the popular software for designing websites. I have a few big projects in the works that I’ll be talking about very soon, but they will all involve the web, hence my interest in the course. Now is as good a time as any to refresh those skills.

For some quick practice, I decided to rejig the site for my book Sex, Bombs and Burgers. The new site, I think, is simple and straightforward, and miles ahead of what I was able to manage five years ago by using iWeb. Have a look and please send along any comments, questions or criticisms. Any feedback will certainly help with what I’m working on next. And have a great Easter!


Posted by on April 18, 2014 in books, media


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