The Trump administration announced yesterday that it would roll back Obama-era FCC net neutrality regulations, effectively e- … and, aw shit, I see that I’ve lost you.
There’s no better way to get someone to tune you out than to discuss a faceless government bureaucracy, especially as it pertains to a relatively esoteric policy topic like net neutrality.
The irony, however, is that for all our collective apathy, net neutrality has a direct and profound impact on our day-to-day lives. Much like the tax code, Apple’s supply chain and the dubious origins of your Quarter Pounder, net neutrality is one of those issues that seem remote and inscrutably complex, thus preventing us from generating a sufficient amount of outrage about the subject. But while the rest of the citizenry argues among each other about the merits of protesting the National Anthem, the fat cats at BIG BROADBAND are taking advantage of our willful ignorance and getting away like bandits.
I’m not sure how to solve this, either. Concerns over net neutrality previously hit a fever pitch in 2014, when Obama’s newly appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler considered revising the commission’s net neutrality guidelines. The average person didn’t give a shit then, and they certainly don’t give a shit now. The only people who truly care about net neutrality are the small fraction of citizens who make a living off the internet (e.g., me) or self-righteous bastards who spend too much time on it (e.g., all of Reddit, me again).
But I’ll be damned if I don’t try to get others to give a shit, too. Net neutrality is in need of a serious rebrand, one that drives home the importance for John and Jane Q. Public. So here’s our attempt at making this issue resonant on a personal level.
First, What Is This ‘Net Neutrality’ of Which You Speak?
Net neutrality is handy, alliterative shorthand for keeping the internet “free and open,” which is itself shorthand for making sure powerful internet companies don’t become more powerful. In practice, this means preventing internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner from providing faster internet access (so-called internet “fast lanes”) to certain companies (particularly large ones).
Netflix uses a staggering amount of internet data to stream its content to customers — one-third of all internet traffic, by some estimates — for example. Without net neutrality, Netflix could strike a deal with Comcast that ensures Netflix content will be delivered to viewers seamlessly and without interruption. On its face, this seems like a shrewd, sensible business maneuver, and totally in line with the concepts of a free market.
But allocating all that bandwidth to Netflix might make it hard for, say, Hulu to deliver its content to its customers. Suddenly Hulu shows have buffering issues. So Hulu starts losing customers. Those customers go to Netflix. And Netflix solidifies its position as the leading streaming platform, edging out all other competitors and forming a monopoly and eventually enslaving us all. (Or something.)
Net neutrality mandates ISPs allocate their bandwidth equally and indiscriminately among all customers. No sweetheart deals, no favorites. Without net neutrality, established companies will have a distinct competitive advantage, making it harder for new companies to enter an industry. That’s bad for innovation and bad for consumers.
Why Sports Fans Should Care
The last thing the average sports fan wants is to further politicize professional athletics, but net neutrality might be the rare issue that reunites NFL fans divided over the National Anthem protests. Dissolving net neutrality would allow those liberal cucks at ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports broadcast rights, to establish the same kind of dominance in internet sports media that it’s long had in televised sports. Don’t let them steal your Barstool Sports!
Suggested Hashtag: #FreeBalling
Why Gamers Should Care
The angry nerds behind #GamerGate put a dent in the video-game media industrial complex three years ago when they staged a coordinated campaign against the supposed lack of ethics in the industry. (Seriously, the entire thing was over perceived biases in gaming criticism.) Their arguments were cynical and largely sexist in nature, and while they didn’t bring the industry to its knees, they did convince a few brands to stop advertising on Gawker Media’s gaming site Kotaku, which had a substantive effect on Gawker’s bottom line that year.
Imagine how upset these Vitamin D-deprived chronic masturbators will be once Sony cozies up to Time Warner, and makes it nearly impossible for anyone who doesn’t own a PlayStation to engage in online multiplayer. Xbox loyalists will face an existential crisis, and finally see the error of libertarianism.
Suggested Hashtag: #ActuallyItsAboutCompetitionInTheGamesIndustry
Why Social Media Addicts Should Care
If you distrust Facebook now, wait until they buy up every last byte of internet data, making Facebook the only readily accessible website on the internet. Facebook would be the sole arbiter of what’s considered newsworthy. And if this seems dystopian, remember it’s Facebook’s stated goal to make Facebook the primary channel by which people access the internet (and for many people, it already is).
Suggested Hashtag: #StopZuckerturd
Why People Who Watch Porn Should Care
This is a cause we can all get behind (so to speak). It’s unlikely that free porn sites such as PornHub, which derive the vast majority of their revenue from advertising, would be able to compete in an online porn industry where the well-heeled companies buy up all the bandwidth and charge a premium to access it, and the free sites are relegated to serving you porn clips that take hours to load for each minute of footage. I don’t want to go back to my teenage Limewire years, where I’d have to wait overnight for my porn to be ready, but I’m not adult enough yet to actually purchase a site subscription.
Suggested Hashtag: #KeepPornFree
Why Amazon Prime Video Users Should Care
It seems borderline asinine to argue for more streaming platforms; there are too many good shows as it is. But the embarrassment of riches we now enjoy is largely due to the low barrier to entry in streaming video. The emergence of the next #disruptive #video #platform — and its corresponding group of annoying teen vloggers and genuinely groundbreaking filmmakers — depends on that staying the case.
Suggested Hashtag: #StealMyNetflixPassword
Anyone Who Uses the Internet on a Consistent Basis (i.e., Every Single Damn One of You)
There’s a counter-argument — one that supports lifting the net neutrality restrictions — that says allowing ISPs and content providers to establish these kinds of fast lanes will be good for consumers. The big players will be able to have their services run smoother, and there’s enough internet to go around to have a minimal effect on the little guys.
But the added cost of paying for those fast lanes will be passed on to consumers, and suddenly internet services that were once free will find ways to nickel-and-dime us at every dang turn. I’m cheap and lazy, man. I don’t wanna monitor my text messages like I’m back in high school again. And neither do you.
Suggested Hashtag: #YouReallyWannaPayForThisShit?