AT&T just declared war on Net Neutrality, in the most quietest way imaginable. They did it by buying two of the largest media, telecom companies in the country DirectTV and Time Warner. While both deals leave a considerable amount of unanswered questions involved at the political and economic levels. It remains clear that these deals are going forward with little to no risk on the part of AT&T. Except of course, billions of dollars.
Now, upon hearing that, any firebrand activist will go: Wait, wait, wait. I thought Net Neutrality was supposed to stop things like these deals. How can AT&T possibly do two of them at the same freaking time? It’s obvious that AT&T is trying to become what it once was when it was the king of the landline. With it’s purchase of DirecTV and it’s super-fast launch of DirectTV Now, and it’s rebranding of Time Warner’s Network into the Spectrum. AT&T is now in the key position to become that all encompassing behemoth many activists feared was just on the horizon. Now that that’s here let’s first go back to what Net Neutrality is as a concept.
As a concept Net Neutrality is where an ISP (AT&T in this case) is supposed to treat all data the same. This is wrong on so many scientific and technical levels I can write a book about it, but that’s for another time. It’s not even a great idea in working theory, but in practice its where it utterly fails.
For one the Net Neutrality laws that had been heralded around the internet as a new type of Constitution for a “open internet” in 2014 and passed into law by 2015, were so broad that any first year technology law student could get around them! So it is no surprise to me that now, one year later, the largest ISPs on the planet are getting around them!
Consider the fact that data IS treated differently whether it is video, text, images, sound etc. That data is treated differently and prioritized through the cables differently and regulated based on bandwidth and the speed of service that is delegated to your specific location. It’s why you use more data for different things, so you can’t possibly treat all data the same! It’s literally impossible to do this and there are no ways to change that dynamic between video and text without going to compression.
Yet Because AT&T has created the monster that activists have feared for years, by prioritizing DirectTV and DirecTV Now’s content on it’s own network the FCC now has to go out and question AT&T about this all too common practice
The FCC didn’t question T-Mobile last year when it introduced it’s Binge On program which is essentially the same thing as AT&T is now doing. Binge On says, if you have a T-Mobile phone, you are free stream all you want without it affecting your data limits. The catch here is that all content will be shown in 480p which in the world of 4K streaming, sucks! In the beginning, the FCC said that they will judge these cases on a case by case basis. Which I am sure the activists didn’t catch in the fine print. But as you see, this new type of giveaway data for being loyal customers is something that is cooked up in the corporate jungle to get around pesky things such as Net Neutrality, and they only had to spend $135 Billion to do it.
So called Zero-rating plans are not new. Many Net Neutrality activists scratched their heads, when I brought up the fact that each Television Service Provider has their own version of On Demand which they promote and beg you to use. Facebook uses a form of Zero-rating plans to help third world countries connect to the internet easier than ever before. And yet, I can’t think of a single GOOD thing to come out of the Net Neutrality rules. There have been no tests done to see if it was a success or how networks were truly affected by it, but as the wheels of bureaucracy most often likes to do, it created a problem to solve that didn’t need solving.
The way these companies get around Net Neutrality has nothing to do with how badly written the rules are. Rather, it’s the fundamental lack of knowledge and conspiracy theories that were involved in the public campaign forced down the throats of an American people already suspicious about big business and the telecoms with some of the worst customer service records on the planet! It’s still Billion dollar companies fighting with billion dollar companies.