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AG News: 6/17/2008

Pay As You Byte Not Good for Radio or TV

This topic's been on the table about half of the time that the radio industry's been talking about performance royalty rates, so I guess that's a reason why it's getting about half the attention. Keep your ears on the latest round of comments from internet ISPs about Net Neutrality; that is, their talk on charging customers for the amount of internet they use. Where we're heading isn't good for Radio or TV.

Where Time Warner, Comcast, and AT&T are talking of taking us for watching videos or listening to radio online may very well become more expensive for everyone.

The following words appeared here in April, 2006: "Without Net Neutrality, those controlling access to the internet - ISPs - will charge higher rates to those who use more bandwidth."

In 2006, watching video online was just sticking its head out of the sand; listening to audio (and file sharing) was the big thing. But, there's a huge difference between "watching" and "listening" when it comes to transferring data across broadband lines. Here's an attempt at putting this into perspective:
A byte is made up of 8 bits.
A kilobyte (or 1 KB) represents 1024 bytes.
A megabyte (1 MB) represents 1024 KB.
A gigabyte represents 1024 MB.

Got that? Great! Let's move on, because what comes next is the good stuff.

Your computer transmits and receives individual 8-byte packages across the internet, which helps you visualize how this constant flow of data moves. In reference to video, you'll transfer in the 200-megabyte range for a half-hour program; higher-quality video will be in the 500-megabyte range to transmit online.

Move audio over the internet and the numbers shrink considerably. A 3.5-minute MP3 file is about 3-4 MB. Even so, an online radio listener will still consume bandwidth in amounts far higher than someone who just checks email or spends only a couple hours a week surfing the Net.

Here is another quote from that April 2006 AG article mentioned above: "Until now MSN, Google, Yahoo!, and all those other high-power internet based companies have not been able to defeat the lobbying efforts of AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast, and the ect.'s of the telecom world. The latter group is spending at more than a 3/1 ratio for congressional ears..."

It looks like their money was well spent.

We are moving to a time when either a sender or a receiver of internet content will be charged for the amount of bandwidth used. At present it looks like the cost will be placed on the consumer's monthly statement. But it doesn't matter who pays, because with extra fees you can predict a decline in the amount of video and audio consumed online.

Here's the caveat to this story: From the looks of it, this data transfer charge will become tomorrow's barrel of oil.

Is it fair? Some say yes. I'm inclined to think it is. But that's not the question to be asking at this time.
Whether it's affordable is what comes to my mind today.

ISPs are already on the way to leveling additional charges for "X" amount of bandwidth consumed. At what point will consumers ask that web sites pay the tab for sending video or audio advertisements their way?

It's only fair.

Nothing has changed since April 2006. Losing Internet Neutrality is not good for the radio industry or television. Except, we are a lot closer to it becoming a reality.

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President, Audio Graphics
Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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