Congress is pushing for net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission is pushing for net neutrality. A gazillion advocacy groups, companies, or trade associations are pushing for (or against) net neutrality and giving the FCC tons of free advice on how to write up its National Broadband Plan. They file comments with the agency every week: Comcast, Skype, AT&T, Microsoft, Google, just to name a few of the most active players, debating tricky questions like bandwidth caps, device openness, and network management practices.
Curiously absent from this discussion, however, are the new cutting edge audio services that are redefining radio: Pandora, Slacker, live365, AccuRadio, and last.fm. These players rarely engage the net neutrality/broadband debate, even though how the big ISPs run their networks will impact what they do as much as they’ve affected video and file sharing. As a consequence, the FCC’s horde of workshops, hearings, and reports on its National Broadband Plan hardly mention Internet radio at all. Take a look at the Commission’ list of Internet workshops. Not one on this crucial subject.
Everybody knows that Internet radio will depend on a neutral, open deviced ‘Net just as much any other sector of the media. ISP interference and exclusive handset deals could make or break independent streaming services, or at least limit their ability to grow.
But when the big Internet radio players do speak up about policy, it’s always about something else. Pandora supports the Performance Rights Act—that proposed law which would require over-the-air radio stations to pay performance royalties to musicians. Last.fm is owned by CBS Radio, which takes little interest in how the regulatory landscape might affect its new acquisition. CBS’s filings with the FCC are about trying to convince the agency not to strengthen its localism rules or crack down on embedded advertising.
As for the rest of the pack: mum’s the word, it seems. But why? My guess is that the quality of broadband here in the United States has been adequate to the task of helping Internet radio grow, and nobody wants to make any unnecessary enemies. And so Internet radio holds its peace and lets others do the talking on this crucial question.
That’s just my thesis, of course. Radio Survivor readers are welcome to submit theirs’.
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