On April 9th, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that a bill from the Democratic-lead House in restoring the Obama-era rules on net neutrality was “dead on arrival in the Senate.” A day earlier the White House had told Congress that President Donald Trump would veto the bill even if it were to get through both sides of the Hill. In a statement the White House claimed the House’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” bill would “return to the heavy-handed regulatory approach of the previous administration… (and stop) the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to investigate and take enforcement action against unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive acts or practices committed by broadband providers.” The great irony in all of this push from the Republican Party for the FCC to put an end to Obama’s directive of net neutrality is that the biggest causality for news and information in all of this will be the GOP’s favorite sounding board: Fox News.
First dive into the basics. According to the Obama White House, Net Neutrality is the idea that internet providers treat all internet traffic equality. That means the biggest of sites like Netflix should have the same processing power and ease to reach as your aunt’s cousin’s nephew’s blog about cats. The biggest fear of the pro-net neutrality crowd is that if the Obama-era rules are taken away, it would allow the massive internet service provider (ISP) companies to limit speeds to web sites they don’t control and then charge higher rates to regain that speed and accessibility. So for Netflix, which takes massive data rates to use, ISP’s would slow down the site and offer more expensive packages to return it to the customer’s liking. In the meantime, the ISP’s themselves will offer easily accessible content of their own production for the cheaper rate, thus censoring what content customers online can see without being priced out. It takes away the freedom of information that has made the internet the greatest and worst thing that’s ever happened to humanity.
In a world without net neutrality, there’s nothing to stop Comcast from only offering its own content for a reasonable price…
The largest internet provider in the country by far is Comcast which is the ISP to over 110 million people across 40 states. In a world without net neutrality, there’s nothing to stop Comcast from only offering its own content for a reasonable price that customers are forced into a take-it-or-leave-it choice thanks to cable companies owning monopolies over municipalities for the cable wires. While Comcast might loose some revenue in people choosing to “leave it” not getting the content they want, they’ll make it back by sky rocketing numbers of hits to content they already own thus bringing in more ad sales to that content as sponsors like to put their messages in places that will be seen. That kind of double-dipping will do just fine for Comcast who won’t give a damn about content produced by anyone else.
So what kind of content would Comcast put up on it’s more accessible internet option? For news, Comcast would have all the financial reasons in the world to slow down anything Fox News and instead off its customers the speedy information from MSNBC which is owned by NBC Universal which is in turn owned by Comcast. One of the next largest ISP in America? That would be AT&T that reaches into 20 states and which just recently acquired the assets of Time Warner and its news based content with CNN. Meanwhile the Fox News Channel’s parent company 21st Century Fox, just sold off most of its assets to Disney with a few strings attached by the Justice Department that the FOX broadcast network, Fox Sports 1 channel, and Fox News Channel can not be part of the deal. Disney is more interested in the 21st Century Fox movie catalogue and studios for it’s own future streaming service than a heavily conservative news network. Disney, which is soon to launch its own streaming service to rival Netflix is betting that even without net neutrality consumers would be willing to pay extra for a streaming service that includes all Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel movies to name a few headliners that now comes from its massive production studio. That leaves Fox News dangling in the wind without an ISP behind it, nor a production studio base to push the channel into the future.
So you’d think that with all this bad news staring Fox News in the face that they would do their best to try and save their own future and speak out against ending net neutrality. But since the news company has become seemingly nothing more than a mouth piece for the Trump administration thanks to Jane Mayer’s reporting in the New Yorker, no one can be shocked to find out this is not the case.
A Fox News opinion piece by Jesse Hathaway and Justin Haskins from December 16, 2017 makes the argument for the FCC to end the Obama-era net neutrality rules. In the piece they say that “liberal activists took a concept everyone agreed on and warped its definition to satisfy their goal to expand government’s power over the internet.” Later on they claim again that it is all a play by the “left-wing Obama administration” to give the power of the internet to the power hungry hands of the government. Typical Fox News rhetoric that the overreaching Obama government was trying to take away all freedoms from all people, a staple of what the network was known for and found success with. But there in lies the problem.
If anything, the loss of net neutrality will harm the conservative skewed media as a whole in the future.
If anything, the loss of net neutrality will harm the conservative skewed media as a whole in the future. Surely all of this won’t happen over night, but with the prospect of Fox News being shut out by leading ISP’s (and it’s television revenue numbers taking a hit as the network’s median age of viewer sits around 65 years old and rising with the increase of youth cord cutters), the leading conservative media giant will be in major trouble. Up and coming conservative media provider Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which is one of the largest conglomerates of local television affiliates, is now making a push into national media distribution through its online over-the-top news outlet Circa. But again, while Sinclair’s local affiliates won’t be under threat as they aren’t affected by cord cutters since the stations are free over-the-air anyways, they don’t control any cable or internet providers to back up their online viewability.
Conservatives and the Republican Party are so big on spreading the idea of free market capitalism that they would make the push to allow ISP’s to tell its customers what it can and can’t see for a price. So why would AT&T allow Circa or Fox News to make money at the expense of being to provide the same idea (news content) on CNN?
This seeming push by Republicans and the Trump administration to tear down all things with Barack Obama’s finger prints on them during his time in the Oval Office has been a corner stone of their agenda since the 2016 election. Have they finally come to an issue while drunk on their own power where they are willing to die on the hill and lose their friendly media outlets to prove a point? In that same piece by Hathaway and Haskins, they say that “net neutrality wasn’t really about paid prioritization or ensuring internet ‘fairness.’” Fox News’ financial bottom line might soon find out just how wrong that idea is.