Don't Wait For Google, Netflix Or Facebook's Help If You Want To Save Net Neutrality

from the wake-up-and-smell-the-monopoly dept

So if you’ve not been paying attention, broadband ISPs (with help from new FCC boss Ajit Pai) are slowly but surely working to eliminate oversight of one of the least-competitive sectors in American industry. It began with Pai killing off a number of FCC efforts piecemeal, including plans to beef up cable box competition, investigate zero rating, and FCC attempts to stop prison telco monopolies from ripping off inmate families. From there, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to kill FCC privacy protections for broadband consumers. Next up: reversing the FCC’s 2015 Title II reclassification and gutting net neutrality.

Between this, cable’s growing monopoly over broadband (including the rise in usage caps), the sunsetting of Comcast NBC merger conditions and a looming wave of new megamergers and sector consolidation, you should begin to notice there’s a bit of a perfect storm brewing on the horizon when it comes to broadband and media competition, anti-competitive behavior, and oversight — one that’s not going to be particularly enjoyable for broadband consumers, or the numerous companies that compete and/or do business with the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

To that end, most of the internet industry’s heaviest hitters — including Reddit, Google, Amazon, and Netflix — under the umbrella of the Internet Association (IA) — met with the FCC this week to urge Ajit Pai to keep the existing net neutrality rules in place. At the meeting, IA CEO Michael Beckerman and General Counsel Abigail Slater argued that things are working well with the rules in place, and that the long-standing industry claim that net neutrality hurt broadband investment is a canard:

“IA continues its vigorous support of the FCC?s OI [Open Internet] Order, which is a vital component of the free and open Internet,” Beckerman wrote in an ex parte filing that summarized the meeting. “The Internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition, and innovation online. In other words, existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact. The OI Order is working well and has been upheld by a DC Circuit panel. Further, IA preliminary economic research suggests that the OI Order did not have a negative impact on broadband Internet access service (BIAS) investment.”

Unfortunately, the plea is likely to fall on deaf ears. Pai has made it abundantly clear he doesn’t think that broadband competition, rampant consolidation, or net neutrality are real problems — whatsoever. In fact, when Pai has spoken on net neutrality, he’s gone to rather comic lengths to try and claim that content companies like Netflix are the real villains, while downplaying any and all anti-competitive ISP behavior. At one point, Pai actually went so far as to claim that the fact that Netflix ran a CDN was proof positive that Netflix was the real threat to the internet.

The second major problem here is that while companies like Netflix, Google and Facebook are gently lobbying against the FCC’s plan via the IA, independently they’ve been less active than ever in protecting net neutrality. Like Amazon and many other tech giants, Facebook has never really been particularly vocal on net neutrality — and in places like India they’ve consistently undermined the entire concept. Google has, contrary to public perception, also been arguably absent from the conversation since around 2010 when it began getting into fixed (Google Fiber) and wireless (Android, Project Fi) services. And as Netflix has grown more powerful, it’s been notably less vocal on the subject as well.

Yes, these companies may still remain quietly active behind the scenes, but if you’re hoping they come to the rescue in the same vocal way they did in the early days of the net neutrality feud, it’s likely you’re going to be disappointed. And with potentially less corporate firepower backing up their flanks, net neutrality supporters are going to have a steeper uphill climb this go round.

That brings us to the third major problem we’re facing: the onus to save net neutrality this time is going to fall largely on the shoulders of consumers, small companies, and the startup community. But many of them, bored after a decade of often hyperbolic debate, were happily under the impression that once we had net neutrality rules — the fight was over. Many still don’t understand that net neutrality is a fight that never really ends. Net neutrality (the symptom) certainly isn’t getting better until you shore up broadband competition (the disease) — and there’s exactly zero indication that’s happening anytime soon.

That’s not to say net neutrality can’t be saved as the fight heats up over the next few months. But unless heavy hitters like Netflix and Google ramp up their opposition, and smaller companies and consumers shake off their apathy and begin waking up to the stage play currently underway in Congress and at the FCC, we’re going to enter a new “golden era” of Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon cross-industry dominance that will make the media and internet issues of the last decade seem arguably quaint.

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Companies: amazon, facebook, google, internet assocation, netflix, reddit

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Comments on “Don't Wait For Google, Netflix Or Facebook's Help If You Want To Save Net Neutrality”

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ThatFatMan (profile) says:

I agree completely that consumers need to be vigilant and have a voice in this fight. The real question I have though is this, how do we make ourselves heard? Without a platform big enough, organized enough and funded enough to keep us from being ignored, the major ISP’s will be able to drown out anything we would otherwise say with their strength of their political donations and lobbying machine.

I don’t mean to sound like a downer here, but I see these articles time and time again that point out the problems, and no one ever seem to have an answer for how we can join together to fight back. Anyone have any thoughts?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

So you want everyone to just ditch the internet then?

As has been stated multiple times over, many people only have one, maybe two (three if you’re really lucky) choices for internet providers. Saying stop using their services is basically just quit using the internet. Internet being the biggest and best platform to make yourself heard these days, that essentially silences your own voice.

If we had true competition in the ISP space then we could certainly do that. Of course in that case we wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

A human powered network that cannot be censored. You’re not going to skype on it, but it has it’s uses. The technology available now is ripe for it since everyone has a computer in their pocket.

People should broaden their focus beyond the hierarchal client-server model which enables surveillance and control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That also means you stop sing the services that you value, as the ISP’s are between you and them.
The whole net-neutrality fight is about whether or not your ISP can decide what Internet services you can use, and how much extra they can charge you directly, or indirectly by charging the service, for you use of the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Public WiFi is provided by the same ISP’s. Many Internet Services are distribution services for self publishers, and those do not provide DVD’s, and the creators on those services cannot afford the time or the cost of physical medium distribution. Any Boycott would damage lots of self publishers, who can only go full time because there are those distribution services.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Public WiFi is provided by the same ISP’s.

True, but if it enables you to cancel your service that’s one fewer subscriber and a loss of overall revenue. You could also share with your neighbor (likely a ToS violation though).

I’m not saying there aren’t downsides, but if people continue to do nothing but complain and keep giving these companies buckets of money, not much is going to change.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The problem with such a boycott is that most of the downside if suffered by individuals, while the legacy Entertainment industry will benefit. Also boycotting the Internet without also boycotting the cable T.V services would give them what they want, much reduced use of the Internet, and an excuse to pull all broadband support, even in areas where they already provide it.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm in a Comcast monopoly region

Either I go Comcast or I go dark.

That’s not entirely true. I could go satellite with a low data cap for twice as much, and I have considered an unlimited phone service, if i could find one that didn’t eventually throttle (usually around 25-30gb for those Unlimited-for-realsies packages).

So really, Comcast is my only plausible choice, even as they get less so with time.

When AT&T was a monopoly for land lines, what would have been the alternative then? Communication by post?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Stop using these companies’ services."

Yes. Exactly that.

…qualified with: When/Wherever possible.

The commenter that replied with, "So you want everyone to just ditch the internet then?" is expressing a sentiment that many feel when confronted with this – seemingly impossible to mitigate – situation. A situation that is, in SOME cases, truly impracticable to mitigate. But what those expressing such sentiment fail to appreciate is that it IS possible to mitigate in MANY situations. But that takes prior (sometimes clever) thought and research AND making the effort to change the way you current conduct your digital life. Just because you’ve done something digital in a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean that you and your friends/family can’t come up with alternative ways of conducting your digital activities in a ways that not support businesses/orgs with practices you don’t agree with.

So, maybe you do not currently have a viable alternative to using Comcast. But is that really also true of using Facebook? Or are you just being lazy. Maybe Google search is truly the best search engine and will only render your desired results for a certain search category. But do you really need to be logged in for every search?

…or is that just for the sake of the enemy of privacy/security – that bargain with the devil otherwise known as, "convenience".

And is google really the only search engine that will work for EVERY search you have? I know that, although definitely not a good as google search, works more than adequately for everyday searches (or searches of certain categories).

…now I know what you’re probably thinking, "Whaaaaaa….???? Use more than one search engine?!?!?"

Yes, my friends. This – and more – is possible if we set our collective minds to it.

Do good for yourself, your friends, your family, and society; do NOT support the services you disagree with by using them. The OBVIOUS practical application of which is to use them ONLY when absolutely necessary. And get off your lazy butt and think/research/create/develop/make popular within your circle of influence, alternative ways to do the same thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“The real question I have though is this, how do we make ourselves heard?”

How? Good question, so far most of our calls are to ask for regulation. Do you know what that does? It makes our voices go away, well… because we just asked for our voices to be silenced by saying we want our elected officials to handle this for us. Well, they can be bought, and not only that, the one time you get a decent one, like say the mildly okay Wheeler, they have to then fight the rest of the bought and paid for politicians. So next time, ask for the return of the free market… a TRUE return!

“I don’t mean to sound like a downer here, but I see these articles time and time again that point out the problems, and no one ever seem to have an answer for how we can join together to fight back. Anyone have any thoughts?”

Funny you should say that… let me make it clear. Not only myself, but plenty of others have had decent ideas, even ones that I don’t like as much but still better than what it is now.

Do you know what everyone says to those guys?

Now you know why there is no change, no one actually wants it because they have to work for it. People are lazy and they will just simply suffer injustices while they are sufferable.

And to be honest… ISP’s spying on me, cheating on my bill, working with government to create monopoly, ignoring my opinions, and generally being all around turds is pretty sufferable. Or at least that is what the majority of Americans think.

Next election we will vote in the same scum, and then somehow reason with ourselves that we are still not responsible for it all.

Good luck, and like Yosemite Sam said after getting his ass kicked by Bugs Bunny, “if you can’t beat’em… join’em!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

well we can make are voices heard and if you want to help protect NN you should support groups like ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press who are fighting to keep Net Neutrality.

also you can set them as your charity on also write to your House Representative and senators

and the FCC

you can also use this that help you contact your house and congressional reps, its easy to use and cuts down on the transaction costs with writing a letter to your reps.

Oliver Heston says:

Network Neutrality needs to die. The sooner the better.

It is a distraction, a work of fantasy, from victimologists that continue to cry for the government to interfere with the marketplace.

If Karl Bode had his way, we wouldn’t have zero-rating from AT&T or T-Mobile. We wouldn’t have cap buyouts. We wouldn’t have new unlimited offerings from all four cellular carriers. Netflix would still be buffering, and we wouldn’t be seeing fiber expansion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Holy sh!t, Vel. How the hell do you do that?!?!

Oli is so ridiculously funny: "We wouldn’t have new unlimited offerings from all four cellular carriers."

"…all four…" HA!!!

His own posts belies the realities of the effectively monopolize/colluded telcom market.

Sorry, Oliver Heston, we are Americans and we want CAPITALISM. Not your establishment captured non-competitive, non-innovative bull-dukey. Perhaps a Russian or Chinese blog might be a better choice for your posts.

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