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Netflix chief shifts his views on Comcast deal

Less than a month after Netflix insisted that its deal to pay Comcast to get a more direct connection to the company’s Internet pipes had nothing to do with net neutrality, Netflix’s chief executive, Reed Hastings, said Thursday that, well, yes it did.

What changed? According to Hastings, who addressed the subject on the company’s blog, once Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for the better connection, Netflix customers were no longer experiencing the delays they had suffered recently when streaming video.

And that, Hastings said, is proof that the traditional definition of net neutrality no longer fits.

Net neutrality has long referred to the principle that Internet service providers should not favor one type of content over another in the “last mile” — that is, in the direct connection from the network to a customer’s house.

The Netflix-Comcast agreement dealt with connections not in the last mile but at the front gate — where Netflix content entered the Comcast network.

Therefore, he wrote, the definition of net neutrality needs to be expanded to encompass those activities that occur further from the final customer.

“Without strong net neutrality,” he said, companies like Comcast “can make these demands — driving up costs and prices for everyone else.”

—Edward Wyatt, The New York Times

Soliciting funds from the crowd? Results will vary

Established museums like the Smithsonian Institution are increasingly turning to crowdfunding appeals to help pay for exhibits and programs that tight budgets might otherwise preclude.

Individual artists have been soliciting donations from the public for years, using Internet fundraising platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Razoo to defray the costs of producing their work. Museums, long reliant on corporate sponsorships, gifts and bequests, have been more hesitant to raise funds digitally because the substantial commitment of staff time required for such campaigns does not always produce a big financial win.

But the successes of some of the museum world’s biggest institutions is spurring interest by museum fundraisers. The Louvre, for example, used crowdfunding — the solicitation of money from individuals online — to raise more than $1 million two years ago to purchase two 13th-century ivory figurines.

Other big-name museums have had smaller successes. The Phillips Collection in Washington surpassed its $15,000 goal last year on Indiegogo to finance a room sculpted from beeswax by German artist Wolfgang Laib, and the Arthur A. Sackler Gallery, part of the Smithsonian, raised $176,000 to defray some costs of an exhibit on art connected with yoga.

“The Smithsonian effort was the biggest campaign undertaken by an American museum,” said Laura Kakolewski, marketing manager for Americans for the Arts, an organization that promotes museums. “Museums are taking a cue from artists and tapping into a new potential source of donors, and creating a sense of belonging among their patrons.”

Such campaigns require resources and staff time to design the visual and other elements including the website, oversee the email and social media contacts, and follow up with efforts to convert new givers to loyal, longtime donors. And if a campaign misfires and does not attract public money, the failure is visibly embarrassing.

The Smithsonian had some bad luck with online fundraising. When its Hirshhorn Museum sought to raise $35,000 on Causes.com to bring a sculpture by the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei to Washington in 2012, the effort raised only $555, the website showed.

—Elizabeth Olson, The New York Times