HBO, Sony and Showtime all want special treatment from ISPs to avoid congestion and data caps for their online streaming services.
“Instead of putting their Web traffic on the public Internet’s main thoroughfare, they want to be in a separate lane that would ensure their content gets special treatment,” the WSJ reports. “In effect, that would move them away from the congestion of the Internet, which they fear will only get worse as more people opt to stream movies and TV shows on the Web. The other benefit: a separate lane would be exempt from monthly data-usage thresholds operators enforce for public Internet traffic, saving customers from the surcharges that can kick in if they binge on too many episodes.”
It is suggested that broadband providers could package online TV services with broadband plans and receive a cut of the online video providers’ subscription revenue. However, broadband providers may not want to give this kind of special treatment to online streaming particularly if they also have competing cable TV offerings.
And such special treatment could be prevented by the FCC under its new net neutrality rules, which prevent prioritisation in exchange for payment.
The FCC did not issue a specific rule banning data caps or exemptions to data caps, but claims the authority to intervene if data caps are used in a way that harms competitors.
The “separate lane” the providers reportedly want would face a different question under net neutrality. Internet service providers aren’t supposed to favor specific online services in exchange for payment but there is an exception for so-called “Non-Broadband Internet Access Service Data Services,” also known as managed services.