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Tech at Night: Net Neutrality, Google, HTML 5

Tech at Night

Republicans are eager to get to work against the President’s regulatory bypasses of the last two years. Cliff Stearns promises “aggressive and rigorous” oversight of Internet, Energy, and Obamacare, says Hillicon Valley. As the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, that’s no idle threat.

Meanwhile Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton is looking forward as well as backward, by looking to guide the FCC proactively on the issue of increasing the wireless spectrum available for Internet access. I think it’s usually better when legislators lead rather than letting those unelected, unaccountable regulatory bodies go off on their own, so I’m glad of this.

When I hear about Comcast running into copyright issues across different media, I wince. The last thing we need is more regulatory action, demanding “Copyright Neutrality” or some such nonsense.

Because after all, now that all the Net Neutrality allies, like Google’s Vint Cerf, have gotten that FCC power grab done, the left wants more. Search Neutrality continues to gain traction in some circles. I oppose it, but sometimes I do take a perverse pleasure on watching Google deal with this kind of blowback after spending so much time and money backing a more aggressive FCC and of course a more aggressively regulating Obama administration to begin with.

And then there’s App Store Neutrality. Jimmy Wales, whose Wikipedia we’ve previously seen has an administrative bias in favor of Net Neutrality advocates and against whistleblowers against Net Neutrality astroturf, is apparently asking for FCC action along the lines of Net Neutrality. Yeah, I don’t want government bureaucrats stifling iPhone and iPad innovation, thank you very much.

Message to Jimmy Wales: Don’t like Apple? Buy something else, jerk. But shut your hippie mouth about trying to take away my freedom to buy it the way Apple wants to sell it.

That’s enough on Neutrality, so let’s move on to something decidedly non-neutral. Google has decided to remove functionality from the Chrome browser, deliberately crippling its ability to play videos under the new HTML 5 standard. Specifically Google removed the ability of Chrome to play video with the H.264 codec, which is the most popular standard. Google instead wants to force people to use Google’s own VP8 codec, which according to George Ou blatantly copies whole portions of the H.264 standard, only doesn’t do the job as well. Worse, anyone who wants to deploy VP8 runs the risk of infringing on the H.264 patents, and Google will not indemnify anyone for that.

George Ou proposes that Google may be doing this simply to goad Microsoft into developing its own H.264 codec plugin for Chrome, or possibly just wants to discourage the creation of iPad-friendly websites in advance of new Google Android-based tablets.

Google is now acting just like Microsoft, in other words. Defiance of standards, aggressive action to harm competitors, preferential treatment for its own software in integration at the expense of the rest of the Internet are all part of Google’s arsenal now.

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