OVERNIGHT TECH: Consumer groups slam Hulu decision to switch to pay model

THE LEDE: Two public interest groups expressed dismay on Monday over reports that Hulu will soon require users to verify that they already pay for cable television.

The New York Post reported Monday that Hulu, which was created by major media companies, will soon make its catalog of television shows unavailable to users who do not pay for television service.

ADVERTISEMENT
Free Press and Public Knowledge both said the move is a blow for consumers.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood questioned whether Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, illegally played a role in Hulu's decision.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required that Comcast have no control over Hulu as a condition of approving Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal.

"Where there's smoke, there's fire, or at least a compelling reason to investigate," Wood said in a statement. "Under the terms of its acquisition of NBCUniversal, Comcast is forbidden from influencing Hulu's operations. Today's announcement looks an awful lot like an example of such influence, and is likely another in a growing list of Comcast merger-condition violations."


But a Comcast spokeswoman emphasized that the company had no role in Hulu's reported decision.

“Comcast and NBCUniversal have no governance rights and no board seat at Hulu," she said. "We have not been involved with the management of Hulu or in any buyout discussions with Hulu. Any hypothetical claims of violations of the FCC Order and the DOJ consent decree with regard to Hulu are a fiction.”

Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, warned the move will only encourage people to download pirated videos.

"Restricting access to legal content will only drive consumers to find illegal content," she said. "In particular, we are concerned about restricting access to TV programming available over free over-the-air broadcasting.  It should be available online, regardless whether anyone subscribes to cable or satellite TV. By putting more restrictions on consumer access to popular content, the entertainment industry only removes any justification for stronger 'anti-piracy' laws it is perpetually seeking from Congress."

FCC launches contest to boost broadband adoption: The FCC announced a competition on Monday to discover the best ways to help low-income Americans adopt high-speed Internet. 

The commission will reward $25 million to the winners of the contest to implement their ideas. The money comes from savings from reforms the FCC made to its Lifeline program.

Applicants must be telecommunications carriers but they are encouraged to partner with "schools, libraries, state and local governments, non-profits and others."

FCC chairman names two top advisers: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Monday named Renee Wentzel as a legal adviser and Charles Mathias as a special counsel.

Wentzel will be responsible for for wireless engineering and technology issues. She comes to the FCC from the law firm Wiltshire & Grannis, where she practiced telecommunications law.

Mathias, who currently serves as acting legal adviser, will handle public safety and homeland security issues. He worked on the team that reviewed AT&T's failed merger with T-Mobile.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Microsoft denied that it had ever backed off its support for a cybersecurity bill.

An FCC report found that a Google engineer deliberately designed software to collect personal information from Wi-Fi networks, but did so alone.

Philip Falcone to step down from LightSquared.

The FCC's political ad rule disappointed both sides.

The New York Times examined how Apple avoids billions of dollars in taxes.