Netflix Is In The Power Position Now In The War For Net Neutrality



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Netflix–or other major sites–can flip things around in the war for net neutrality.

The FCC is marching ahead with its massively unpopular plan to repeal net neutrality and free the internet service providers (ISPs) from the burden of consumer protection. When Ajit Pai is done, the ISPs will once again be free to throttle traffic from competitors, and sites or services they don’t like, or charge services like Netflix a “toll” for the privilege of being delivered to customers at the full speed the customers are paying for. It seems to me, though, that the power dynamic has shifted, and that Netflix actually holds all the cards now—at least in areas with more than one ISP to choose from.

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With each passing day it seems more apparent that Ajit Pai and the FCC have zero interest in what the citizens of the United States think about net neutrality. My email inbox is receiving a regular diet of tone-deaf propaganda from the FCC trying very hard to convince the world that up is down, left is right, and major ISPs will act in the best interest of consumers this time rather than doing the things they did to initiate the net neutrality debate in the first place.

A survey of 1,077 registered voters—conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC), and released by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People—found an overwhelming bipartisan majority oppose repealing net neutrality. The survey found that 83 percent object to Ajit Pai’s proposal to repeal net neutrality—including 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats, and 86 percent of those who identified as Independent.

“A decision to repeal net neutrality would be tacking against strong headwinds of public opinion blowing in the opposite direction,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

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Presented with the FCC talking points in support of repealing net neutrality—restrictions are unnecessary, net neutrality stifles innovation, ISPs should be free to provide cutting edge speed for companies that want them, etc.—most of those surveyed were not convinced. 51 percent don’t buy the arguments from Ajit Pai while 48 percent do.

The death of net neutrality seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. Ajit Pai and the FCC have gone through the motions of the process, but appear to be ignoring the results of that process. Despite tens of millions of comments opposed to repealing net neutrality, they seem prepared to do just that. In response to speculation that millions of pro-repeal comments are fake or fraudulent, the FCC has refused to cooperate with attempts to investigate.

So, here we are. Back at square one, where Comcast can extort fees from services like Netflix in exchange for allowing their traffic to traverse the network unthrottled.

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If and when that happens, I can see at least a couple potential responses. First, Comcast—or whichever ISP engages in such shady behavior—opens itself up to potential lawsuits from Netflix customers. I pay my ISP to provide me a pipeline to the internet. That is all. I pay Netflix for its content. Having an ISP impede delivery of Netflix would be like someone standing at the base of my driveway and not allowing UPS to bring a package–a package that I have paid for–to my porch unless the driver paid the extortion fee first.

Netflix is not a customer of the ISP. It doesn’t owe the ISP anything. The customers of Netflix are paying for a service, and the ISP—as far as I can tell—has no right to intentionally impede or infringe on the delivery of that service.

Let’s say they do, though—because they probably will. Does Netflix need to pay the extortion? No. Not really. Netflix is in the power position.

If Comcast (or some other ISP) wants to try and extort money from Netflix, Netflix could flip it around and just block its service from using that ISP. The ISP is just a pipeline to the internet, so as long as it’s a relatively fast and relatively reliable connection, there’s no reason to be loyal to a specific ISP. If I were a Comcast customer and Netflix pulled its service from working over the Comcast network, I would be an AT&amp;T customer by the next day—or vice versa.

I focused on Netflix because Netflix is a very popular service and there is already precedent for ISPs extorting “tolls” from Netflix for the privilege of delivering the service the customers already paid for, but this logic applies to major sites in general. What if Google decides to be an AT&amp;T exclusive, or Facebook chooses to only work with Comcast?

In less urban areas where there is only one ISP available, that ISP can abuse its local monopoly. But, in areas with more than one ISP to choose from, ISPs will do so at their peril. People don’t care about the pipeline, but they will drop an ISP in a heartbeat if the sites or services they want are not available.

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Netflix–or other major sites–can flip things around in the war for net neutrality.

The FCC is marching ahead with its massively unpopular plan to repeal net neutrality and free the internet service providers (ISPs) from the burden of consumer protection. When Ajit Pai is done, the ISPs will once again be free to throttle traffic from competitors, and sites or services they don’t like, or charge services like Netflix a “toll” for the privilege of being delivered to customers at the full speed the customers are paying for. It seems to me, though, that the power dynamic has shifted, and that Netflix actually holds all the cards now—at least in areas with more than one ISP to choose from.

With each passing day it seems more apparent that Ajit Pai and the FCC have zero interest in what the citizens of the United States think about net neutrality. My email inbox is receiving a regular diet of tone-deaf propaganda from the FCC trying very hard to convince the world that up is down, left is right, and major ISPs will act in the best interest of consumers this time rather than doing the things they did to initiate the net neutrality debate in the first place.

A survey of 1,077 registered voters—conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC), and released by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People—found an overwhelming bipartisan majority oppose repealing net neutrality. The survey found that 83 percent object to Ajit Pai’s proposal to repeal net neutrality—including 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats, and 86 percent of those who identified as Independent.

“A decision to repeal net neutrality would be tacking against strong headwinds of public opinion blowing in the opposite direction,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

Presented with the FCC talking points in support of repealing net neutrality—restrictions are unnecessary, net neutrality stifles innovation, ISPs should be free to provide cutting edge speed for companies that want them, etc.—most of those surveyed were not convinced. 51 percent don’t buy the arguments from Ajit Pai while 48 percent do.

The death of net neutrality seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. Ajit Pai and the FCC have gone through the motions of the process, but appear to be ignoring the results of that process. Despite tens of millions of comments opposed to repealing net neutrality, they seem prepared to do just that. In response to speculation that millions of pro-repeal comments are fake or fraudulent, the FCC has refused to cooperate with attempts to investigate.

So, here we are. Back at square one, where Comcast can extort fees from services like Netflix in exchange for allowing their traffic to traverse the network unthrottled.

If and when that happens, I can see at least a couple potential responses. First, Comcast—or whichever ISP engages in such shady behavior—opens itself up to potential lawsuits from Netflix customers. I pay my ISP to provide me a pipeline to the internet. That is all. I pay Netflix for its content. Having an ISP impede delivery of Netflix would be like someone standing at the base of my driveway and not allowing UPS to bring a package–a package that I have paid for–to my porch unless the driver paid the extortion fee first.

loading...

Netflix is not a customer of the ISP. It doesn’t owe the ISP anything. The customers of Netflix are paying for a service, and the ISP—as far as I can tell—has no right to intentionally impede or infringe on the delivery of that service.

Let’s say they do, though—because they probably will. Does Netflix need to pay the extortion? No. Not really. Netflix is in the power position.

If Comcast (or some other ISP) wants to try and extort money from Netflix, Netflix could flip it around and just block its service from using that ISP. The ISP is just a pipeline to the internet, so as long as it’s a relatively fast and relatively reliable connection, there’s no reason to be loyal to a specific ISP. If I were a Comcast customer and Netflix pulled its service from working over the Comcast network, I would be an AT&T customer by the next day—or vice versa.

I focused on Netflix because Netflix is a very popular service and there is already precedent for ISPs extorting “tolls” from Netflix for the privilege of delivering the service the customers already paid for, but this logic applies to major sites in general. What if Google decides to be an AT&T exclusive, or Facebook chooses to only work with Comcast?

In less urban areas where there is only one ISP available, that ISP can abuse its local monopoly. But, in areas with more than one ISP to choose from, ISPs will do so at their peril. People don’t care about the pipeline, but they will drop an ISP in a heartbeat if the sites or services they want are not available.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



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