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Monday, 15 April 2013

Aereo and Regulation

Usually, I am for the least possible regulation. It is indeed very hard to have good judgment on all trade-offs and, as a result, regulation may do more harm than good. Aereo's new business of streaming free broadcast TV channels to (mobile) Internet devices for a fee is definitely a good illustration of how complex a problem regulation needs to address. Re-transmitting free broadcast TV for a fee is illegal. Cable companies pay a fee to the TV channels. However, Aereo argues that, legally, it does not re-transmit free broadcast TV because it rents an individual antenna to each individual customer. This argument doesn't really make sense and circumvents the regulation with a small technical argument. Will regulators consider the law to the letter or its spirit? They need to come up with a strong decision, which will likely influence in a major way the evolution of the industry. As Aereo expands to over 20 counties (it already covers NYC) there is some urgency.

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