William Craig’s cravings may soon change the nature of the Internet.
In his quest to broadcast TV content over the Internet, his company, iCraveTV.com, has created a new technology that some fear may Balkanize a once open and borderless means of communications.
Craig, the founder and chief executive of iCraveTV in Toronto, has always been fascinated by television. As a child, Craig would place cardboard boxes on top of orange cartons, and those would serve as TV cameras for his imagination. As a teenager, he worked as an interviewer, researcher and writer on the seminal public affairs show This Hour has Seven Days.
“I suppose I was fascinated by the ability to communicate with people in a mass medium,” Craig said.
The problem is a U.S. court ruling recently forced iCraveTV off the air because its webcasts were seeping into the U.S. where they were illegal, and now the company is only permitted to broadcast in Canada. That means it must shut out non-Canadian Web viewers.
To comply with this directive, the Internet TV broadcast company is in the process of patenting a new technology called iWall.
iCraveTV is keeping tight-lipped on how the technology works, pending the patent.
“Basically, I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not a firewall. That is, we’re not proposing to put some sort of iron curtain around Canada. And it doesn’t inhibit anybody else from dealing with the Internet internationally,” Craig said.
The technology, Craig insists, doesn’t control messages coming into a server; it controls those going out from a server.
This will allow iCraveTV to control the countries to which it chooses to send its services.
And it’s a technology that many businesses will embrace, Craig said.
iWall will let companies carry out business over the Internet that is perfectly legitimate and legal in one country, but may be illegal in another without having to worry about breaking any laws, Craig claimed.
free and open
For some, this has created concern that the Internet’s almost sacred tenet of openness will be diluted. People are worried about the potential implications that a technology like this may have if, for example, it were to fall in the hands of an oppressive government.
“I’ve been reading all the criticisms in the press, and I have a comfortable smile on my face because we saw those issues going into it and we think we’ve addressed them,” Craig said.
“It’s very important that the Internet still be viewed as a World Wide Web, and nothing we’re doing is proposing to moderate that. What we’re saying is, this is a server-based system that is fairly transparent to the user. That is, they don’t have to put any technology or anything extraordinary on their computer. But we’re able to independently determine their geographic location.”
Far from shutting the doors on communication over the ‘net, this will add to the capabilities of the Internet, he said.
“If there are 180 countries out there, and one of those 180 countries doesn’t allow something on the Internet, then the way the current structure is, everybody is not allowed to have it. I don’t know if we want the government of Chad dictating what can go on the Internet because somebody is worrying that it will float onto that territory.”
Craig said he understands and shares concerns about the Internet remaining free and open. He believes the CRTC, where he once worked in the early ’70s on policy regulations, made the right decision when it decided not to regulate the Internet.
In 1979, the Etobicoke, Ont.-born Craig went down to the U.S. to get cable TV franchises for Rogers. This was followed by a series of jobs in different U.S. cities helping companies set up various sports channels.
Eventually, he found the jobs he was taking were bringing him closer and closer to his hometown.
Although some claim that iCraveTV is actually an American company that Craig located in Toronto in an attempt to circumvent U.S. laws, Craig said it was his two sons that drew him back to Canada.
It was also through talking to his older son that he first got the idea for iCraveTV. While he was watching his son use his computer, Craig was struck by the fact that there was no television on the screen.
“Why? It’s a perfectly good TV location and so I started to look into it and came up with the concept of iCraveTV.com,” he said.
That was back in May and now iCraveTV has agreed to temporarily go off the air to appease U.S. companies. Craig said he was not prepared for the reaction iCraveTV would engender both in the U.S. and Canada, where program rights-holders were concerned about the rebroadcasts on the Internet.
“I knew we were going into new territory, but no, I wasn’t expecting the vehemence of the feelings from the rights holders. I thought they would view this as a way to get more of their product out and make more money. And instead, the issue resides around control I guess, which is odd. You have control vs. development, which is an odd equation,” Craig said.
He hopes to be back on the air by June 30 with the help of iWall.