SUPERCOMM: Cotton calls for content chasers

CHICAGO--NBC Universal executive Richard Cotton probably picked the wrong week to ask broadband service providers for their help in policing the Internet. Armed with numbers about the pervasive nature of illegal sharing and use of copyrighted content on the Web, Cotton, the executive vice president and general counsel of the TV and movie studio, closed out Supercomm Friday with a keynote speech focused on why and how content giants and telco giants can work together to identify illegal users and discourage them from further bad behavior.

That appeal may come off as quaint and ill-timed, having occurred just a day after the Federal Communications Commission voted to pursue new Net neutrality rules that could greatly curb what service providers can do in terms of monitoring content on their networks and managing traffic flow. It also came two days after Verizon Communications chief Ivan Seidenberg strongly advised the FCC against pursuing new measures. Additionally, it came as rumors continue to circulate that major telco competitor Comcast could take a majority stake in NBC Universal--that might complicate telcos' feelings about helping out this particular content firm.

"Illegal file sharing on wired ISP networks consumes 50 percent of the bandwidth," Cotton said, adding that the rest of the Internet community is subsidizing the relatively few people who are behind content pirating and related network congestion. He suggested that congestion and such lopsided economics are exactly why service providers like telcos should get tougher about content piracy

Cotton also argued that content piracy is costing the U.S. jobs because of the revenue lost by content companies. NBC Universal wants a more cross-industry effort to steer Web surfers away from pirated content and toward legal sources. Not surprisingly, Hulu, which is co-owned by NBC, seemed to be at the top of his list of legit sources.

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