Yesterday, Cecilia Kang (@ceciliakang) of the Washington Post wrote an article about FCC Chair Tom Wheeler’s (@TomWheelerFCC) speech defending net neutrality and the blocking of a Comcast/Time Warner merger. He gave the speech on Wednesday at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) conference in Chicago, IL (his full prepared remarks can be found here), and Cecilia’s article clearly portrayed the reaction within the room and among those against the FCC’s highly-publicized and controversial decisions of late. In her article, Cecilia succeeded in showing the opposition’s frustrations with Wheeler’s plan, but one aspect she failed to portray was the true importance, scale, and power of the chairman’s words.
I felt her piece misled us a bit about the overall reaction to his speech. It felt as if her only point of view came from within the confines of the NCTA conference, which had an audience heavily stacked in favor against the chairman. Of course the audience’s reaction was half-hearted, everyone probably assumed the chief executive of Liberty Gold thinks the FCC’s action is an example of “terrible regulation”, and why wouldn’t the CEO of Time Warner push back on Wheeler’s assessment? These are people all gathered in one place that net neutrality is meant to take down a notch or two, so of course they don’t like his regulations. What we didn’t get from Cecilia’s article was how everyone else feels–how the Internet feels.
She actually used the best quote from Wheeler’s speech, one that can really sum up how the Internet feels about the issue:
“Often people say to me, ‘I know you won’t do anything crazy, but what about those who follow you?’ My response is, ‘I take you at your word to protect an open Internet, but what about those that follow you?'”
It’s pretty simple to folks at home. Comcast has control over so much of Web & TV distribution already that (basically) we’re stuck with them because they’re the only offering available. If they “merge” (essentially take over) with Time Warner they would not only have control of distribution, but also an even bigger portion of the content being distributed than they already have. They’d have Netflix, Discovery, you name it. Who the hell wants any company to control that much content, let alone shitty Comcast? No one.
As best put by Alex Wilhelm (@alex) in his last line of his TechCrunch article on the issue, “Consider these the closing words on the first chapter.” For everyone who wasn’t at that conference, this speech just solidified the end of the first long stretch of waiting for net neutrality to really blossom. We deserve it, the Internet deserves it, and Comcast needs to be reminded it’s not God.