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The New Zealand ISP Slingshot created ads to promote its Internet services, including a small bit about its content access tool. The ISP’s Global Mode is similar to VPNs, and Sky TV raised copyright concerns. Sky TV, the main New Zealand pay TV operator, is banning these ads. Slingshot just launched its Global Mode service for accessing geoblocked content. The ISP calls the ban by this Netflix competitor a shallow and baseless move.
The Internet Content Access Debate
Sky TV said that it was blocking Slingshot’s content access ads because of copyright issues. This is a legitimate problem and content owners do have the right to protect their property. But content access is the real issue here, not piracy. Everyone all over the world faces content access blocks for one reason or another. In the case of New Zealanders, it is mostly because certain services like Hulu, iPlayer and Amazon Prime are not available in their country. Content access has been a problem for consumers in New Zealand and Australia for a very long time. They often get content very late, and then on top of this it costs too much.
People simply want to have open content access, as it was meant to be when the Internet went public. They don’t want to steal content, they just want to be able to get to it. But there are many digital blocks that prevent content access from certain geographical locations. People have asked that these blocks be removed so they can enjoy freely and equally what other people in the world enjoy. Sadly, many companies and governments refuse to provide them with that service. People therefore look for ways to get what they want.
Content Access Tools and the Sky TV Stance
So far, the best way to gain and maintain content access is by using a VPN. There are also other tools that have been developed over the years. One of these is Global Mode, which focuses on unblocking websites like Netflix so that Internet users can use the site. They are not stealing anything by doing so because they will still pay for their Netflix subscription. It is a simple issue of not allowing private companies or governments to determine who can get what content, how much it will cost them, and when they can access it. The Internet is supposed to be open and free, and these tools help keep it that way. In a sense, it is the companies that are breaking the rules by preventing open content access.
Sky TV is the main pay TV operator in New Zealand. They reach a lot of people in the country. Banning the Slingshot Global Mode ads can therefore really hurt the ISP’s efforts to get the word around. Sky TV has the freedom to side with content owners, but the argument is flawed. Global Mode is not a tool designed to allow people to get away with content piracy. It simply provides content access. If services like Hulu and iPlayer want to provide this content for free of for a fee, that is their right.
The content access problem exists in between the content providers and the content consumers. First, companies like the UK’s BBC and the USA’s Netflix want to limit their content to a certain audience. The reasons are different, but the issue is monetization. But if they are using the Internet as a delivery mechanism, this is not right. Second, governments want to protect their local companies by ensuring that they face a healthy level of competition. This is good for the economy and ultimately therefore good for their citizens. But again, controlling content access over the Internet is not the right way to do it. A simple solution is to just allow open content access. If the bottom line is money, charging countries or viewers for content access is reasonable. In any case, people are willing to pay for subscriptions or content access tools like VPNs. If they don’t like the fees, they can use a different service.
Ultimately, the Internet cannot be cut up by geoblocks so that companies can discriminate against users by virtue of their physical locations. Doing this is a type of Internet censorship, a sentiment that Slingshot’s general manager Taryn Hamilton echoed. Sky TV spokesperson Kirsty Way admitted that their argument against Global Mode was partly based on the fact that Netflix doesn’t pay for content rights in New Zealand. She also said that people just want to access Netflix because they can get a better deal. Their argument about intellectual property rights is unfounded. It is really all about money, and people wanting decent content access without breaking the bank.