“Net Neutrality. The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are: ‘Featuring Sting,'” John Oliver said last week on his new HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.”
We’ve been hearing about Net Neutrality for a few months now, but the details are kind of fuzzy. Something about cable companies getting money? Something about Netflix being able to go faster? Eh, it’s all over CSPAN, let’s go watch cat videos.
Oliver says it’s time to listen up, because cable companies have figured it out: “If you want to do something truly evil you just have to make the logistics of it sound really boring.”
“If Apple put the entire text of Mein Kampf in their user agreement you’d still click agree,” he uses as an example.
Oliver breaks down Net Neutrality in a way that all of us can understand in a 14 minute bit, and we break down the most important parts.
Net Neutrality means that every site on the internet runs on the same speed. That way, startups can compete with big companies. It’s how Facebook was able to edge out MySpace back in the aughts. And how Friendster was able to replace having actual friends.
But the end of Net Neutrality, which the FCC is seeking, would mean that cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner could charge companies like Facebook and Netflix a ton of money to make their sites run even faster, leave startup sites — like “Nutflix,” which Oliver made up as an example — crawling behind.
The FCC calls it a “fast lane and a hyper-speed lane,” but John Oliver calls BS: “The two speeds of service won’t be Usain Bolt, and Usain Bolt on a motorbike. It will be Usain Bolt and Usain Bolt-ed to an anchor.”
The big companies don’t even want this to happen, and it’s not like they don’t have the money to fork over. That’s how unfair ending Net Neutrality is; big corporations and activists are siding together to protest what the cable companies want to have happen.
Back in February, Comcast and Netflix were in negotiations. The black line in the chart below shows Netflix internet speeds on Comcast’s service. Then, Netflix finally gave in to Comcast demands…and look what happens.
What’s the FCC have to say? Interesting. The guy President Obama put in charge of regulating, Tom Wheeler, used to lobby for telecom companies in Washington. Comcast alone spent $US18,810,000 in lobbying last year, more than any other company. So cable companies have Washington in their pocket, Oliver says.
“That is like needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo,” Oliver exclaims.
He compares cable companies to drug cartels, as various companies have “turf.” Comcast has Philly, for example, and Time Warner has New York. They’re not even competing with each other, so all they have to do is wrangle money from the big tech companies.
Another crazy fact? We in the United States pay more money than any other place in the world for internet and cable, but our download speeds are slower than those in Estonia.
So why don’t we care? Why isn’t this a bigger deal to us? Because every time we’ve heard about Net Neutrality it’s been presented in the most boring way possible. We are literally falling asleep at our desks. We have already closed that tab in our web browser.
He explains there’s something we can do: The FCC is inviting people to comment their thoughts on Net Neutrality on their website. After Oliver announced that people could do this, and provided the link, the FCC’s site actually crashed.
But it’s back up now, with almost 50,000 comments on the filing to protect the open internet, more than any other filing on the FCC website.
“They shouldn’t call it ‘Protecting Net Neutrality’ they should call it ‘Stopping Cable Company F*ckery,'” Oliver shouts to a wildly cheering audience.