The repeal of the Title II utility designation for internet service by the FCC last week means that providers can provide fast lanes for certain traffic at a cost to users, slow or even ban access to what they consider to be objectionable or competing content.
While many companies already pay traditional ISPs as well as web services companies for regional servers to feed content to customers, the rates they pay may not be subject to drastic or even much movement at all.
“From the era of having no net neutrality to the era of having it, nothing changed,” said one anonymous former content streaming company executive to Reuters.
Netflix has had its public spars with Comcast, Verizon and AT&T as its movies and content have drawn large waves of subscribers, saying that these companies shouldn’t be making money from consumers and from companies on both sides of the product. While it has agreed to pay these companies to distribute its content, Netflix did report paying less after the FCC’s Open Internet Order was passed in 2015 — partly because it defaulted to sending out a lower-quality signal to mobile customers.
Meanwhile, for consumers, one TV industry analyst sees the potential for what many net neutrality proponents have feared: ISPs bundling content from paying partners or their acquired creative studios with consumer service packages while charging them extra for access to competing companies.
“They can frame it as a positive. ‘We’re not hurting Netflix. We’re just giving our subscribers a benefit of something we already own,'” said the analyst.
That’s if they can treat all pieces of entertainment media as one and the same: we know that there are series that people will watch, like “Game of Thrones,” and many others that will be financially unsustainable. Will this move affect what kind of shows get bought up by Netflix and Verizon’s go90? Both companies produce original content, but will all of it become just as easily traded and dropped when locked-in audiences can’t as easily move between services?
The NFL is exercising its viewership leverage with its new deal with Verizon by expanding a prior streaming agreement for football matches to more Verizon-owned platforms, but with viewer client agnosticism.
That future may be the best that can be wrangled out of the recent vote — that is, if it doesn’t get overturned with enough local government and congressional support or a new presidential administration.