Sen. Al Franken Warns Against Dangers Media Mergers, Opposition to Net Neutrality
In 1994, the first computer wired for the internet entered our household. At the time, the internet was not even considered a luxury, but an oddity. Ten years later, it was obvious that the internet was here to stay, but it was still considered something of a luxury. In 2014, connectivity is omnipresent with devices of all kinds able to receive and transmit data from anywhere in the world. Anyone who consciously avoids the internet seems like a Luddite.
For those who champion the idea of Net Neutrality, the internet may still be something of an oddity but it is more a utility than luxury. Still around 15 percent of Americans don’t use it, but a significant portion of those people don’t have access to it.
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota pointed to the proposed mergers (or takeovers) of Time Warner Cable and DirectTV by Comcast and AT&T respectively as a sign that companies would rather “buy each other up” rather than investing in “infrastructure” to improve access and quality of service.
Sen. Franken also cautions against the FCC’s decision to allow an “internet fast lane” which would require companies to pay internet providers a premium or see the delivery speed of their content slowed down. He points to the case of Google Video and YouTube.
In 2005, Google—already an internet giant—launched a video-hosting and sharing service called Google Video. That same year, however, YouTube launched with only the internet weight of a handful of ex-PayPal employees behind it. If there had been a “fast lane” at that time, Google could have paid a premium so that their videos were delivered more quickly, which would have significantly hurt YouTube’s chances to become the preeminent video site on the internet.
Curiously, YouTube is also representative of the aforementioned strategy of media companies. After YouTube beat Google Video, Google bought the company for $1.65 billion in 2006. If you can’t beat them, apparently, buy them. Google/YouTube is currently in talks with video-streaming service (used mostly by gamers) Twitch for around a billion dollars.
Which is why it is surprising that those in the GOP haven’t fallen on the side of Net Neutrality. Businesses like YouTube and Twitch began as small businesses that would have likely still been noticed for their superior technology by Google, but because they’d have been crippled by “fast lane” access, Google would have paid them pennies for it.
Photo by Ed Kohler via Flickr Creative Commons