December 19, 2001
Ms. Josephine Scarlett
Office of the Chief Counsel
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Room 4713 HCHB
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20230
Re: Request for Comments on Deployment of Broadband Networks and Advanced Telecommunications Services, Docket No. 011109273-1273-01,
Dear Ms. Scarlett:
This letter is being filed in response to NTIA’s Request for Comments on Deployment of Broadband Networks and Advanced Telecommunications Services, Docket No. 011109273-1273-01, RIN 0660-XX13 (“Request for Comments”). An original and five copies of this letter are being filed, and the letter will be filed electronically as well, in Microsoft Word, version 2000.
In the Request for Comments, NTIA asked for information relating to the deployment of Broadband Networks and Services. Specifically, NTIA solicited Comments to assist NITA in continuing to support removal of “obstacles to broadband deployment."
The Walt Disney Company (“TWDC”) has an active interest in helping to stimulate the deployment of Broadband Networks and Services. TWDC is a producer of creative content, including motion pictures, news, entertainment and sports programming. The widespread deployment of Broadband Networks will enable TWDC to distribute its content directly to consumers – a highly desirable goal both for our Company and for consumers.
TWDC has a long history of efforts to lead the way in Broadband deployment. For example, in 1995, TWDC established a partnership with SBC, GTE, Ameritech, Bell South and SNET called Americast. The vision of this partnership was to speed the deployment of Broadband “Full Service” Networks by our telephone company partners. Despite the best efforts of all partners, that vision proved to be ahead of its time and Disney exited the partnership in 2000 due to lack of Broadband deployment by our partners.
Despite this disappointing history, TWDC remains keenly interested in Broadband deployment and has two specific suggestions in response to the NTIA Request for Comments. Both of these suggestions are designed to hasten deployment based on “demand pull” rather than “supply push.”
I. GOVERNMENT SHOULD FACILITATE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMON AND OPEN STANDARDS FOR TECHNOLOGICAL PROTECTION OF CONTENT.
In our view, nothing will generate demand for Broadband service faster than the on-line availability of popular entertainment programming. And, nothing will bring that entertainment content on-line faster than the creation of a reasonably secure environment in which content owners are not threatened with widespread piracy of perfect digital copies of their creative works.
To be sure, piracy has been with us since the beginning of creative thought. But, the combination of perfect serial digital copying and the worldwide distribution platform of the Internet combine to create a world that is unnecessarily hostile to content owners. With the click of a mouse, perfect copies of creative content can be distributed all over the world without the consent of, or compensation to, the creator.
Even now, when downloading large files over narrowband networks is relatively difficult, estimates of illegal downloads of motion pictures alone range from one million a month to a half a million a day. In the current environment, copyright owners apply various protective technologies to their works, based on different standards. Consumers are faced with a chaotic and confusing on-line world where separate security systems must be downloaded (along with their varying technological glitches and requirements).
The establishment of open, common, interoperable and renewable content protection standards would better serve the interests of consumers, content owners, network operators and the manufacturers of digital devices. The goal should be a world where consumers can securely access content from any source using any digital media device. Content owners would welcome the direct connection with consumers. Network operators would benefit from increased demand. And digital media device manufacturers would experience renewed demand for their products.
The technology to make this happen exists today. What is required is a process to establish, and to then mandate, a common open baseline content protection technology or “family” of compatible technologies. The technologies should be interoperable, scalable, renewable and upgradeable. There should be protection for home copying for personal use of broadcast and basic cable programming. Current law regarding fair use defenses to infringement should not be impacted (neither enlarged nor constricted) by the technological standards.
Clearly, there is a role for the government in facilitating the establishment of such open standards. The private sector, left to its own competitive processes, is not capable of producing this highly desirable result. There is also an appropriate government role to mandate inclusion of technological standards in all digital media devices. Because not all digital content can be scrambled, the technological standards will necessarily include some non-self executing features such as watermarks. Unless digital media devices are mandated to look for and respond to watermarks (and the absence of watermarks), pirated content can flow through, be uploaded onto, and downloaded from the Internet.
One moderate approach would be legislation that initially defers standards setting to the private sector for a time certain. It is possible that the stimulus of a deadline could be the spur necessary to yield a private sector solution. If not, then an appropriate agency of the government should step in and set the standards, building on the private sector deliberations.
Widespread piracy will impede and delay Broadband deployment. A confusing array of incompatible and proprietary content protection standards will impede and delay Broadband deployment. Only open and common standards will unleash the creative content that, in turn, will create the demand to support widespread deployment.
II. GOVERNMENT SHOULD ASSURE CONTINUATION OF THE “END-TO-END” ARCHITECTURE THAT ALLOWS ANY COMPUTER DEVICE CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET TO COMMUNICATE WITH ANY OTHER CONNECTED COMPUTER DEVICE.
The key to the growth and innovation of the Internet has been its “end-to-end” architecture. This central architectural characteristic is what assures that any computer device connected to the Internet can communicate with any other connected computer device.
As the Internet migrates to Broadband Networks, it may be appropriate to allow changes in some elements of the underlying regulatory structure. Some parties will likely suggest such changes in this NTIA proceeding, given that the Request for Comments asked for input on the appropriate regulatory environment for Broadband Services. However, the one essential characteristic of the narrowband network that should not be altered or undermined is its “end-to-end” architecture.
Assuring that any connected computer device can communicate with any other connected computer device is what opens the door to new and innovative services and applications. This principle guarantees that no vested interest can block the development of new competitive Internet services. And, it is the constant innovation and the development of new applications and services that will generate the “demand pull” to speed deployment of Broadband Networks.
TWDC hopes that NTIA finds these comments to be helpful. Any questions may be directed to the undersigned.
Susan L. Fox