Thursday, January 30, 2014
STREAMING CAUGHT IN MIDDLE OF VERIZON-FCC FIGHT TO RULE THE INTERNET! CAN NETFLIX SURVIVE?
A few years ago, on one of my earliest blogs, about streaming, called "Why Streaming Sucks! Why Everyone Who Predicts the End of DVDs is Wrong!", I said that DVDs were always gonna be more beneficial than streaming, and even proposed that they were gonna win the battle for the future of home media. (You can see the link below)
I still stand by that opinion and in some ways, we're getting closer to that reality than ever, although when I was making that prediction/declaration, I was referring to how it would be impossible to ever get the studios and others who own the rights to distribute films to come together, stream all the world's library of film, and have them permanently available on one streaming website, and settle any monetary considerations and distribution of money and earnings per download/stream of a property, which is still probably the greatest obstacle for the continued success of streaming, but a close second in the obstacle department, is what's more prevalent and in the news right now, the possible dismissal of net neutrality, in order to make streaming available to all. Some of you may know, some of you are probably aware of the latest news in the ongoing lawsuit regarding Verizon, who's challenging the recent FCC rulings regarding an open neutral internet. Verizon's challenging the FCC's ruling, as they want to be able to, not limit the internet per se, but make it so that streaming contents are more preferable for Verizon users and on that end, on Verizon sites. It's a little complicated, but basically the way it works now is that, no matter your internet provider, they give you the complete internet; Verizon, Comcast, CenturyLink, I'm using Cox right now, etc., they're simply the providers of the internet, they can't control your internet usage in any way, like slow down the internet for certain disgruntled customers, or prevent you from going to any websites that might be, for instance, from a competing internet provider.
Verizon, and let's presume all the other aforementioned major names and others, want to eliminate net neutrality. Now, this can have a lot of dangerous, Orwellian side effects, but narrowing it down to our main concerns, what exactly does that mean, for us streamers? Well, basically, it means that if this passes, Verizon would be able to block and/or make it harder to stream on non-Verizon sites, liked Netflix. They may not, completely block it, like Time Warner Cable was doing with CBS recently in their major lawsuit regarding cable prices, but they could make it easier for streaming to occur on a competing Verizon streaming site, and make it harder to stream on Netflix, ergo making the service practically useless, unless you pay Verizon to use the service, and eventually, as fewer and fewer people would use Netflix, it would fall into bankruptcy, keeping in mind, that it wouldn't just be Verizon doing this. You see, the fact that you already have to spend extra money to subscribe to all the streaming sites, in order to see every possible thing you'd want to watch, that's the logical problem, and why streaming won't last in the long haul, but this could be a bigger concern, 'cause if the D.C. appeals court ruling holds, Verizon and all the other internet providers will be able to limit your ability to stream content on their sites. So, now, instead of, just having to pay for different streaming sites, we may have to pay to have multiple internet providers just so we can be overcharged to stream.
This does seem a little greedy but let's play devil's advocate for a second here, Verizon, is providing their internet to their customers, which is a big undertaking. You have put up the wires and pipes, in order to provide for that kind of internet; it doesn't just come out of the air, they're putting money into this, and suddenly most of their customers spend it streaming on Netflix. Well, that's a lot of money, that they could be making, going to Netflix, which is what the bulk of their internet is being used for. If the case continues and Net Neutrality is overturned, they can start charging their customers to stream on Netflix, as oppose to their customers using Netflix for free, completely lacking their own shot at making money. Think of it this way, if Verizon was a shopping mall, that somebody would walk through to get to the Starbucks on the other side of the mall, across the street, pretty soon, you'd put a Starbucks inside the mall. That's what Verizon is trying to do, and it's good business, 'cause people are using their product, but the money they pay is going to someone else. In that sense they do have a bit of a point here.
Now, as the Young Turks post above explains, there are more privacy issues at stake than this, but essentially, if this goes through, the entire internet is going to be like cable television, and we'll have to pay to use every single site, including the sites that we'll probably get for free, by using the internet provider that also runs the site. We want cable, we have to pay extra, we want HBO, we pay extra, we pay extra, you want Hulu, you may have to pay extra now, if this decision stands. That's basically what's happening; it's an attempt, by the internet providers, to legally form a power play and eventually take over the streaming options on the internet.
Seriously, it may not look like it, but DVDs, if this keeps happening, and we head towards this direction, they'll be making a comeback, or some next generation of hardware will, cause it'll really be the practical way now, and if you think getting a bunch of studios to agree with each other over money, let's try getting them in the same room with the internet providers, and see how big a clusterfuck this could become, 'cause that's where this is eventually heading. Now I wouldn't put it pass the possibility that, this happens and a suddenly disgruntled internet-savvy electorate that, before a deadline approaches that suddenly Congress and the President, may reverse any unfortunate appeals court ruling and suddenly make it law themselves, but it is, a little bit early for that still, but is just the beginning. Even if this case doesn't go in Verizon's favor, you know that they're gonna start trying to find other end around in order to get in on the streaming business, as everyone else already is, and I don't blame them; even as I say continue to sound the praises of DVDs, streaming won't go down without a fight, and will exist in some form, and if somebody can legally corner the internet market, that company is gonna make a killing on the streaming market.
Well, this is definitely worth keeping an eye on, for many reasons, and one of the minors ones is that it can forever alter the way we watch movies, but in the meantime, if you like streaming, you ought to continue to enjoy it however you can, especially now, it'll probably cost too much for the hassle in the future.