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A Full-‘Throttle’ History of Title II Terminology

On June 12, the Federal Communications Commission was empowered to start enforcing its new Title II-based network-neutrality rules after a federal court denied a last-minute stay request.

That got The Wire to pondering how “throttling” became the term of art for what was referred to as “unreasonable discrimination” in the FCC’s 2010 order, and what’s been referred to generally as “degrading” — as in “no blocking or degrading or paid prioritization” — in network-neutrality debate parlance.

The migration from “unreasonable discrimination” made sense because the court frowned on the language, but “degrading” didn’t appear to have been undercut as a catch-all.

The term “throttling” has always been around, said Tim Karr, senior director of strategy at Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Free Press and a veteran of the network-neutrality wars. “[W]e have used all of these terms throughout the history of this debate, using whichever is more appropriate in describing a particular circumstance,” Karr said.

But throttling’s stock has clearly risen since the first 2010 net-neutrality order.

No lesser a net-neutrality term-of-art aficionado than Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld — who, like Karr, has been a net-neutrality proponent for years — pronounced it a “good question.” That provided just the sort of positive reinforcement that has driven investigative journalists to pursue such semantic conundrums as why advertisers think they can hide their “sales” behind the pretentious cloak of “savings event.” But we digress.

Feld said he thinks it dates from the reaction to wireless carriers’ usage plans — wireless broadband is now regulated under the net-neutrality rules, so it would make sense for the catch-all phrase to have morphed as well.

“I think it came up when the wireless carriers started throttling unlimited plans when they went over some undefined ‘cap,’ ” Feld told Multichannel News. “The idea was that ‘throttling’ was different from degrading because [throttling] just reduced overall speed/capacity rather than actually disrupting the transmission, as Comcast did with BitTorrent.”

One cable veteran thought the transition point was when FCC chairman Tom Wheeler got so much pushback on the “commercial reasonableness” standard that the FCC “needed something else besides ‘no blocking.’ ”

Whatever you call it, cable operators wish the definition excluded Title II.

— John Eggerton

Will the Web Be TiVo’s Growth Portal?

To partake in the world of TiVo, a consumer must typically go out and buy a TiVo DVR or lease one from one of the company’s various cable partners. Otherwise, they’re pretty much on the outside looking in.

That changed last week, when the DVR pioneer launched TiVo Online, a Web portal that provides some core capabilities that are available to all comers, plus some bells and whistles for TiVo subscribers.

For existing TiVo subs, the new Web-based component enables them to manage and set recordings remotely and stream live TV and recorded shows when they are connected to the home network and use TiVo Online in tandem with a TiVo DVR that has on-board video-transcoding capabilities or is connected to the TiVo Stream sidecar. A way to stream shows and recordings via TiVo Online while out of home is in the works, the company said.

For everyone else, TiVo Online will provide a baseline guide and serve as a free, unified search engine that ties together what’s being offered from pay TV operators and various over-the-top sources such as Netflix and Hulu. It also offers a “What to Watch Now” element that shows the most popular programming based on genres and themes.

This fall, non-TiVo subs will also be able to use it to track their viewing history and get recommendations.

TiVo Online also opens up a new public outlet for Digitalsmiths, the video-discovery company TiVo acquired last year.

Tom Rogers, TiVo’s CEO, said it was high time for TiVo to open things up as it becomes increasingly challenging for consumers to wade through the sea of video choices that are at their fingertips.

“One thing that hasn’t gotten any better is how the Internet provides a place for people to find what to watch on TV,” he said. “So we said we want to open that up … it’s a great way to help [consumers] discover the secret sauce of TiVo.”

And, to take that thinking another step forward, if users get a taste, perhaps they’ll want more.

TiVo isn’t monetizing TiVo Online with third-party ads at the outset (though that door will remain open), but Rogers said part of the strategy is to provide this free service with the hopes that some visitors and users can later be converted to paying TiVo subscribers, either through TiVo’s retail channel or one of its multichannel video programing distribution partners. TiVo will use the new Web hub to promote retail product deals.

Time will tell if TiVo Online will have a role to play in the company’s plan to create a “legal” version of Aereo, the now-defunct Internet TV and cloud DVR provider. TiVo, which acquired Aereo’s trademarks and customer lists via a bankruptcy auction for about $1 million, has said it will hold a “significant event” in late July to discuss its Aereo plans.

— Jeff Baumgartner

CNN Shakes Its Groove Thing For ‘The Seventies’ Launch

CNN broke out the disco ball, platform shoes and afro wigs for a groovy ’70sthemed party to celebrate the launch of new docu-series The Seventies.

The news network transformed New York’s Marquee nightclub into a retro Studio 54, complete with flashing strobe lights and shiny disco floor.

CNN personalities, Don Lemon, John Berman and Brooke Baldwin, along with numerous reporters and guests were treated to performances from Peaches& Herb, Heatwave, The Manhattans, Maxine Nightingaleand Evelyn “ChampagneKing while eating and drinking such period-specific sustenance as Hamburger Helper, tuna casserole, Harvey Wallbangers and Long Island Iced Teas.

While the sound system at the venue was less than right on, the event was otherwise far out.

The eight-part The Seventies debuted last Thursday (June 11).

— R. Thomas Umstead