On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on rules that would reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility. The stated goal is to give the commission the authority to enforce what’s called “net neutrality.”
Unless you’re a rare breed, I’ve already frightened (or bored) you with a topic you’re certain is arcane, technical, obscure, and confusing. You might also think it’s irrelevant.
So to goose your interest, I’ll note that John Oliver – the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight series – recommended replacing the dull “net neutrality” with “Preventing Cable Company F---ery.”
Because cable companies are so loathed, calling net neutrality by Oliver’s term gives us an easy target. Complaining about one’s cable company is a time-honored pastime. And those operators control more than half of the U.S. broadband-Internet market.
“People want the villain, and the good guy,” said Phyllis Peters, a regional communications director for Mediacom. “And because everybody loves what they can get on Netflix, they’re the good guy. And ... Big Cable, it’s the bad guy.”
As with most easy villains, the situation is more complicated, and getting past the heated rhetoric – Oliver’s included – takes work. So what follows is an imagined Q&A about ... Preventing Cable Company F---ery! (I’ve got to keep your interest somehow.)
My goal is to present a simplified (and in some cases over-simplified) explanation of net neutrality as a public-policy issue, specifically in the context of the FCC’s impending vote. The proposed rules won’t be made public before that meeting, but FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has sketched out the broad strokes – no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization.