A new "mockumentary" called The Internet Must Go
launched today, in conjunction with the latest court hearing in the Verizon case against the FCC over the FCC's net neutrality rules. I got to see a "preview" showing of the film last week with the filmmaker. You can see the whole thing below, or at the link above, which includes a number of extras. The premise of the mockumentary is that the major ISPs have hired a clueless market researcher to figure out how to convince Americans that we don't need an open internet with basic non-discriminatory end-to-end connectivity. That researcher then goes out and talks to a bunch of net neutrality supporters who school him on the importance of an open internet.
There are a bunch of appearances in the film from folks you may know and recognize, like Larry Lessig, John Hodgman and Alexis Ohanian. As the filmmaker explained to us last week, the goal of the film is to try to make more people in the general public aware of the issue of "net neutrality," so it's more generally targeted at folks who don't spend a lot of time on these issues and who aren't generally aware of what's going on. On that front, perhaps the video will be successful, though I have to admit that, on the whole, the presentation is a bit disappointing. As I've said repeatedly, I'm a huge supporter of the concept of end-to-end neutrality and an open internet, but the movie badly caricaturizes the nature of the argument, and what's actually at stake, at times. The issues are a bit more complex than they're laid out, and it feels like that takes away from what could be a more informative film.
Frankly, where the film shines best is the part where it gets a bit away
from the loaded term of net neutrality, and gets to the real problem: the lack of competition in broadband. For almost a decade, we've been pointing out that the so-called "fight" over net neutrality is really just a symptom
of the lack of true competition in the broadband space. Get real competition at the service level and the issue of net neutrality fades away. What the ISPs claim is an attempt to get rid of "net neutrality" is really just an attempt to leverage a dominant position to get people to pay twice for the same bandwidth. So the part in the middle of the film where they start to look at the lack of competition, and how certain areas are completely underserved by the major ISPs because of this, the film gets more interesting.
Overall, the message that an open internet is worth protecting, and that we need a competitive and innovative broadband infrastructure, is absolutely true. I'm just not sure the film really presents that message in the best way possible. It's way over the top in how it paints the goals of the ISPs, and that takes away from what could have been a stronger message about how to actually tackle the lack of competition.