Netflix's protest against the FCC's net neutrality rules comes with a cost: the movement's integrity
The last-ditch effort to raise awareness for the Federal Communication Commission's proposed net neutrality rules is in full swing. Companies like PornHub, Reddit, and Netflix have added widgets to their websites to tell consumers that the page would "still be loading" if there were "Internet slow lanes," which many fear might be created under the FCC's current iteration of its proposal.
It's somewhat disappointing that none of these companies are actually slowing their load times, at least the first time someone visits their site. Nothing gets a person's attention like a bit of lag between clicking on a link and having the Web page take forever to load. And as John Oliver and others have proven, outrage is the Internet's best defense against the FCC.
But there's another problem with the movement -- if the addition of a widget for a single day can really be called a "movement" -- and that's Netflix's involvement. While it might help the effort attract more attention, it also allows a monumental hypocrite to continue to hide its attempts to avoid fees and make deals with companies like Comcast in the past. As I wrote when Netflix attempted to play both ends against the middle with a letter to the FCC,
I doubt that Netflix will truly suffer from this merger. It will strike a deal with the new company much like it struck a deal with Comcast. It can afford to pay those interconnection fees, at least for a while, even though many other companies wouldn’t be able to, so it’ll live.
Of course, it would prefer not to pay those fees. So it wraps its self-interest in a veil of altruism and aligns itself with those who contest the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger because it would further degrade the country’s already-embarrassing Internet infrastructure. Protests like this only work when they're made in the pursuit of some higher ideal, not in the hopes of using consumer outrage to protect financial interests. That's why the SOPA blackout, which was made popular with Wikipedia's participation, was so effective. While there's always going to be a double standard when it comes to tech and idealism, it doesn't need to be quite as obvious as Netflix's, and weakening the idealistic appeal of this protest isn't doing it any favors.
Then again, I suppose most people don't care about Netflix's motives as long as their streams aren't affected when they want to binge-watch another '90s sitcom or mediocre movie. In that case, Netflix might still be outdone by PornHub and RedTube -- won't people just love to see something besides "one trick that makes doctors hate this well-muscled dude" in that shitty ad that looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint? -- but it's at least slightly better than nothing.
[image adapted by Hallie Bateman]