Netflix now admits that for the past five years, all through the debate on net neutrality, it was deliberately slowing its videos watched by users on AT&T and Verizon’s wireless networks. The company did so for good reason—to protect users from overage penalties. But it never told users at a time when Netflix was claiming carriers generally were deliberately slowing its service to protect their own TV businesses—a big lie, it turned out.
All this has brought considerable and well-deserved obloquy on the head of Netflix CEOReed Hastings for his role in inviting extreme Obama utility regulation of the Internet. Others deserve blame too. Google lobbied the administration privately but was too chicken to speak up publicly against utility regulation.
But Netfix appears to have acted out of especially puerile and venal motives. Netflix at the time was trying to use political pressure to cut favorable deals to connect directly to last-mile operators like Comcast and Verizon—a penny-ante consideration worth a few million dollars at best, for which Netflix helped create a major public policy wrong-turn.
Net Neutrality is one of those Orwellian words that mean exactly the opposite of what they sound like. There is a battle that goes on in the marketplace in virtually every communication medium between content creators and content deliverers. We can certainly see this in cable TV, as media companies and the cable companies that deliver their product occasionally have battles that break out in public. But one could argue similar things go on even in, say, shipping, where magazine publishers push for special postal rates and Amazon negotiates special bulk UPS rates.
In fact, this fight for rents across a vertical supply chain exists in virtually every industry. Consumers will pay so much for a finished product. Any vertical supply chain is constantly battling over how much each step in the chain gets of the final consumer price.
What "net neutrality" actually means is that certain people, including apparently the President, want to tip the balance in this negotiation towards the content creators (no surprise given Hollywood's support for Democrats). Netflix, for example, takes a huge amount of bandwidth that costs ISP's a lot of money to provide. But Netflix doesn't want the ISP's to be be able to charge for this extra bandwidth Netflix uses - Netflix wants to get all the benefit of taking up the lion's share of ISP bandwidth investments without having to pay for it. Net Neutrality is corporate welfare for content creators....
I am still pretty sure the net effect of these regulations, whether they really affect net neutrality or not, will be to disarm ISP's in favor of content providers in the typical supply chain vertical wars that occur in a free market. At the end of the day, an ISP's last resort in negotiating with a content provider is to shut them out for a time, just as the content provider can do the same in reverse to the ISP's customers. Banning an ISP from doing so is like banning a union from striking.