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RAIN 12/23: FCC's net neutrality ruling casts shadow on future of Internet radio

Posted on: 12/23/2010

Editor’s note: RAIN will return next week. Happy Holidays!


The FCC’s new rules about net neutrality ban “unreasonable discrimination” from wireline providers, but not wireless providersand that may prove problematic for webcasters. Radio Survivor‘s Matthew Lasar rounds up the many opinions about the FCC’s rules and their possible impact on Internet radio in a new article.

“There is a reason that so many giant phone and cable companies are happy, and we are not…Those seeking to innovate and invent new uses for digital technologies face the prospect of being blocked, bilked, or intimidated by the [wireless] carriers who control the pipes,” writes Andrew J. Schwartzman of the Media Access Project.

John Anderson of DIYMedia.net agrees. “If wireless broadband shapes up to be the primary broadband vector of the future, the FCC just sold us out, and streaming radio may want to invest in eloquent psychoacoustic codec research.”

Lasar also cites Jerry Del Colliano, who observers that “more and more consumers will be using the mobile Internet and the devices that they love so much and yet the guarantees of neutrality may only apply in some ways to wired broadband and not mobile Internet…your iPad may look like it is in your hands, but it will really be in the hands of Internet providers.”

Lasar points out (here) that a lot of questions still need answers. “Will this Order survive a court challenge? How will wireless broadband providers respond in terms of network management and pricing?” But one thing is clear: “A whole lot of complex variables facing mobile/Internet radio over the next few years.”


Back in February 2010, BMW’s Mini announced plans to bring Internet radio to their dashboards through an iPhone app (RAIN coverage here). That app, Mini Connected, has finally arrived in the App Store. Like the earlier-launched BMW app (RAIN coverage here), Mini’s app streams Internet radio stations from RadioTime’s TuneIn Radio database.

The app’s launch means Mini joins Ford in offering in-car Net radio options that consumers can use today. If you own a 2010 Mini and an iPhone, nothing’s stopping you from seamlessly streaming Net radio to your awesomely-designed (see pic at right) dashboard radio. (Same with 2011 Ford Fiesta owners, RAIN coverage here). Engadget has more coverage on Mini’s new app here.

This is just the start of the deluge. We’ve heard lots of new, cheap in-car Net radio gadgets are coming at CES 2011 (RAIN coverage here), while BMW, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and other car makers also have streaming radio plans.


Apple recently updated its Remote application for iPhone and other iOS devices. The big update includes support for more AirPlay features (controlling content on your Mac, being sent to an Apple TV…confused yet?) but it also adds support for Internet radio control. That means you can control playback of Internet radio streams on your Mac’s iTunes from your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Neat, right? And it’s free. PC World has more coverage here.


Sony has launched an on-demand streaming music service in the U.K. and Ireland. The service, dubbed Music Unlimited, features music from Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, EMI Music and Sony Music Entertainment. A basic subscription (3.99 euros a month) provides ad-free Pandora-like radio streaming, while the premium plan (9.99 euros a month) offers on-demand listening. Sony says it plans to bring the service to the U.S. in 2011. The L.A. Times has more coverage here.

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  1. The next thing Internet radio needs to do is to start feeding the info about problems with wireless carriers to the Federal Trade Communications. In trying to explain the seriousness of the issue to the FCC today, they simply blew me off saying they could not regulate what wireless companies did.

    So I called the FTC, who seems to be more amenable to working with us on matters of Internet radio and some of the matters not settled by the FCC in the matter of net neutrality and wireless.

    Simply give them a call with your issue, they’ll take an abstract of your complaint, then give you a case number. Follow up right away with a snail mail letter to the address they give you giving them the details. Include the case number give you over the phone within the letter you write. Be as detailed as possible with your specific issue or general concern.

    Net radio providers need to let them know of the possible loss of listenership, through such methods as bandwidth caps, favoring rival stations and applications, etc.

    Listeners also need to complain about bandwidth caps and the high and outright in some cases exhorbitant prices being charged for very little bandwidth. Should you notice favoring of one app or service over another that is also good cause to file complaints with the FTC.

    For any Internet radio service to grow and flourish, the wireless companies must be brought to the realization they could kill off the golden goose before it even hatches. If they continue with capping how much bandwidth users can use, and favor one app or station over another, they are going to need to be held accountable for what they do.

    So please complain to the FTC with at the start a general complaint, the more they hear from the Internet radio community on these and other Net Neutrality issues, the sooner they will act. Their website with the phone number to call, it’s toll-free, is at http://www.ftc.gov/ and the ‘Contact Us’ link is at the bottom of the main page.

    James W. Anderson · Dec 23, 06:07 PM · #

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