Net Neutrality Died With the Comcast/Netflix Deal
The fix is in, and unless we do something quick - the internet as we know it will disappear for good. On Sunday, Comcast and Netflix announced that they had reached a deal that will give Netflix direct access to Comcast’s broadband networks. Until now, Netflix has only been able to sends its content to homeowners and internet users by using middlemen companies like Cogent.
Cogent, which in internet parlance is known as a “backbone provider,” routs Netflix’s content through to Comcast, which then sends that content to millions of homes across the country. But with its new megadeal, Netflix will get to avoid Cogent altogether and send its content straight to Comcast, and, from there, to TV fans like you and me.
In the short term, this means that Netflix users who get their internet from Comcast will get to stream movies and TV shows at faster speeds than they did before. Sounds pretty good, right?
Well, not really.
While Comcast customers will now able to watch House of Cards without having to worry about annoying lag time and loading screens, this deal sets a terrible precedent for the future of the internet. When the next startup Hulu or the next startup Netflix comes along and tries to break into the streaming market, it will have to fork over millions of dollars to Comcast if it wants the same access to Comcast’s broadband networks that Netflix will now have.
If you’re thinking of starting a net-based business in your garage, good luck. If you’re not an oligarch, you won’t have a chance. Sure, Netflix would prefer not to have to pay Comcast, but by doing so it pretty much guarantees itself a safe spot at the top of the TV streaming market.
The internet is now officially a “pay-to-play” industry and only the industrial oligarchs are welcome. Giant corporations make the rules and set the price, and small businesses now have to suck it up and deal with it and, therefore, most won’t ever be able to get off the ground. And thanks to the DC Circuit Court’s decision last month to strike down net neutrality and the FCC’s unwillingness to declare ISPs as “Common Carriers,” there’s pretty much nothing we can do about it.
To make matters worse, big internet service providers like Comcast are only getting bigger. In fact, if its massive $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable goes through - Comcast will become the number one cable provider for almost 40 percent of American homes.
For years, the internet has been the last refuge of the real free market. But with the death of net neutrality and the rise of borderline monopolies like Comcast and Verizon, it’s rapidly becoming the new kingdom of the robber barons.