Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

We're Flops in the Internet Olympics the U.S. Is Falling Way Behind in Broadband Access

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

We're Flops in the Internet Olympics the U.S. Is Falling Way Behind in Broadband Access

Article excerpt

The opening ceremony of the London Olympics honored Tim Berners- Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and featured a display of his live Twitter post: "This is for everyone."

Unfortunately, the rest of the 2012 games have provided a less inspiring vision of the Internet's future, at least in the United States.

People in at least 64 territories around the world have been able to watch free live streaming video of every event: 3,500 hours on 10 separate real-time channels have been made available online by YouTube. Yet in the United States, this coverage has been available only to those who pay for a cable, satellite or telephone-company TV subscription that includes MSNBC and CNBC. Only about 7.8 percent of this streamed Olympic content has been available over the air in the United States.

If you're a non-subscriber, almost the only way to access these multiple live streams has been through a proxy server that shields your location -- IP addresses can be tied to geography -- or through other, possibly illegal, means. The group Global Voices Advocacy reports that the file-sharing site Pirate Bay, where users could upload video of Olympic events for all to see, briefly renamed itself "The Olympic Bay," with the saucy tagline "This is for everyone."

Concentrated control of Internet access and the close corporate connections between distributors and programmers have brought us to this point: NBC Universal has all the rights to Olympics coverage. The network's majority owner -- Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. broadband company -- decided that Americans shouldn't get access to these live streams without paying.

In the United Kingdom, where the British Broadcasting Corp. hasn't tried to monetize every second of Olympic fervor, the streams have been available over the air and online. Many Americans have logged on to virtual private networks that make their computers appear to be signing on to the BBC site from a U. …

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