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HBO, Sony And Showtime Seeks Internet Fast Lane For Online Streaming Services

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The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) new rules on net neutrality may ban paid prioritization, aka Internet fast lanes, but TV streamers are reportedly looking for loopholes to help them get around the rules to be put in effect in a few months.

HBO, Sony and Showtime reportedly want special treatment from Internet service providers (ISPs) as a way to avoid bandwidth data caps and Internet congestion as more and more people start streaming movies and TV shows online. This is according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal, which cites people familiar with the matter who say that the companies have reportedly been in discussions with Comcast and other ISPs to have their TV streaming services treated as "managed" services.

The FCC does not prohibit cable and phone companies from bundling their services with Non-Broadband Internet Access Service Data Services, also known as specially-managed services, such as data-heavy IP video and video-on-demand services, which are assigned to a separate lane of bandwidth on the ISP's pipes apart from the lane for public Internet access so that customers do not experience dropped calls or buffering videos.

HBO, Sony and Showtime are reportedly looking to strike partnerships with ISPs to have their streaming services treated in the same way as digital phone and video-on-demand. The ISPs could possibly share a percentage of the companies' subscription revenue, the Journal says, which could only mean the costs of such a revenue-sharing agreement will be passed on to the consumer.

If ISPs agree to such a partnership, the content providers believe their customers will not be subject to lag problems the way Netflix was before it struck up a deal with ISPs to deliver its streaming videos through a fast lane. Moreover, it would eliminate the limits for bandwidth usage, which could save customers from the surcharges that appear on their monthly bill when they have watched too much Game of Thrones.

HBO and company's proposal to ISPs is not exactly paid prioritization, but they could still get in trouble with the FCC if they succeed in partnering with the ISPs. The FCC says it will be requiring ISPs to disclose all specially-managed services and reserves the right to pursue legal action against a service that is using the functional equivalent of Internet fast lanes.

"(I)f the Commission determines that these types of service offerings are undermining investment, innovation, competition, and end-user benefits, we will similarly take appropriate action," says (pdf) the FCC. "We are especially concerned that over-the-top services offered over the Internet are not impeded in their ability to compete with other data services." 

Photo: Arturo de Albornoz | Flickr

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