Comcast and Broadband: “It’s our Platform”

As the Congressional battle to secure network neutrality nears, with a possible Senate vote next month, it’s important to place a spotlight on the broadband domination plans of both the cable and telephone industries. We know that companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner fear the Internet. They don’t wish to see an open, non-discriminatory platform compete with them in the delivery of IP-based communications (voice, video, etc.). As a Alacatel white paper explained, “service providers [meaning cable/phone co’s] are really competing with the Internet as a business model, which is even more formidable than just competing with a few innovative service aggregators such as Google, Yahoo and Skype.” [Alcatel is helping both AT&T and Verizon build its networks].

Comcast, the largest and most powerful cable T.V. company, plans to use its clout to leverage greater control over the delivery of IP video. It has recently acquired “thePlatform,” a major web publishing technology company. Through thePlatform, Comcast will be able to ensure that it can deliver its own and “approved” broadband content more efficiently, including better positioning, pricing, and the capture of critical personal subscriber/user information (so they can more effectively market to us vs. competitors and other providers). Comcast plans to use this technology as part of its plans to make its web portal a national broadband video [rich media] service—one that can better compete with Google, Yahoo!, and other independent providers.

Comcast also plans to deploy an advanced video/broadband integrated set-top box that will serve as a “high-end” home gateway, capable of delivering a full range of multimedia into the home (including a powerful personal video recorder). They call it “RNG,”—standing for real next-generation. Comcast’s other recent acquisitions, including interactive TV software developer Liberate [now called Double C Technologies, a joint venture with Cox], will also be part of its platform.

It doesn’t take a mind reader to understand why Comcast, its cable brethren, and giant phone companies lobbied the FCC to sweep away the Internet’s non-discriminatory safeguards. By removing the key policy impediment to their plans for broadband dominance (or relevance!), they can deploy the range of technological/economic controls that will shape our broadband future.

Source: “New Cable Strategies Spawn Efforts By Vendors to Push Set-Top Envelope.” ScreenPlays, August 2006.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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