The Year in Tech: Top 2007 News and Trends

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Web Radio Sour Notes

While Web video blossomed in 2007, Web radio encountered some turbulence. For several weeks last summer, small Webcasters were on the verge of shutting down after the XCopyright Royalty Board imposed steep new royalty fees that had been requested by SoundExchange, the performance rights organization responsible for collecting and distributing royalties for digital transmission of music. Because the fees were based on "performances"--which on the Internet translates into the number of custom channels that the user maintains, rather than into the revenue that results from use--they would have bankrupted most Internet broadcasters.

In August, large Webcasters reached an agreement with SoundExchange to allow them to continue operating The deal established a $50,000 cap on royalty fees for large Webcasters that may stream thousands of channels (the CRB's per-channel minimum of $500 would have far exceeded the cap for major Internet radio sites). SoundExchange also offered smaller Webcasters the option of paying royalties based on their revenue rather than on their number of channels, provided that the  revenue from the site involved did not exceed $1.2 million a year.

The future of Internet radio is by no means settled yet. Webcasters continue to appeal the CRB's ruling in the courts, and Congress may intervene with legislation specifically designed for Internet radio.

Bandwidth Blues

You need a lot of bandwidth to download and stream TV shows and music over the Internet, which is why many ISPs began to doubt whether allowing customers to use unlimited amounts of bandwidth was a wise business strategy.

In 2007 Comcast decided to act, booting some customers who violated the ISP's acceptable-use policy, which allows Comcast to cut off service to customers who "download too much" off the Internet. In other cases, Comcast dealt with customers who used specific, bandwidth-intensive applications such as peer-to-peer file-sharing programs by slowing their data transfer speeds.

Meanwhile, some telephone and cable companies expressed grave concern over proposed laws that would promote Internet neutrality by forbidding ISPs to prioritize packets based on where the packets came from (or based on how much the senders or recipients were paying).

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