Gigi Sohn on the FCC’s Directions

FCC is taking wrong turn on digital media

Who knew that today the Federal Communications Commission would be trying to turn that sci-fi introduction [“The Outer Limits”] into a regulatory reality? Not only is the commission considering rules that would result in the digital television picture from reaching its full, sparkling potential, but the FCC also is considering defining where, when and with what rights consumers can use digital media.

There are two separate, but related, issues that the FCC is considering. What they have in common is that they are generated by the fear, yet again, by the “content community”–principally the movie industry–that consumers will have too much say in how and when and where we can have access to digital TV or cable.

It’s hard to believe, but one issue is whether the broadcasters should be able to make their picture quality more fuzzy as a means of limiting the distribution of programming, say over the Internet. The technical term is “down-resolution,” or “down-rezzing.”

[…] At the same time that the FCC is considering whether to make your TV picture worse, it’s also considering another program–the Personal Digital Network Environment (PDNE), which would set boundaries on where consumers can view and use the digital programming that comes into their homes.

[…] There was one other part to that “Outer Limits” introduction. It started out by saying, “There is nothing wrong with your television set.” If the FCC and the content community get their way, there will be.