Internet Apocalypse
February was not a good month for fans of an open internet. If you've just been reading the news headlines, you'd think that the Four Cyber-Horsemen of the Apocalypse are on the march, and the end of days is but moments away. To be fair, the news has been pretty grim. Net neutrality enforcement efforts suffered a setback in court, there are numerous reports of Netflix being throttled, with the only solution being for the streaming video service to pay off multiple ISPs, and the upcoming merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable isn't going to do consumers any favors.

This would normally be the part where I say that the news isn't all bad. To be fair, net neutrality efforts are far from dead, and peering arrangements, like what Netflix and Comcast entered into, aren't uncommon (they're just less public). But that's where the positives end. The bottom line is that we've seen that the ISPs have the power to do more or less whatever the hell they want to, and consumers lack the options to do much of anything about it. Unless you're one of the lucky households with access to a fiber-optic line, the local cable company is the only option for high-speed internet in the U.S.

If the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger goes through, then one company will be that only option for half of the country. As a Time Warner customer, I know that the company isn't perfect. Still, as an ISP they're a much better option than Comcast. I kinda like having no bandwidth caps or speed issues with streaming video content. Hell, TWC has actually embraced Netflix in ad campaigns, and there were rumors that the company was creating a Netflix-branded cable box. They even have a budget plan specifically designed for people who just wanted HBO GO. For all their faults, TWC has so far been an internet-friendly company, and I can't help but think that will all end when Comcast takes over. So, what then? Call up the DSL company?

It's rare when I say that the government needs to step in to resolve a situation, but a free market only works when there's actually a market. The company that builds the internet infrastructure owns it. With no real incentive to build concurrent pipes--imagine two or more sets of cable lines going to every home and business--we're stuck in a situation where every area basically has a monopoly by default. Leasing those lines? Not happening. No cable company in particular wants to loosen this strangehold on their markets because it would mean less leverage to negotiate deals with content providers like Youtube and CBS--in cases where they don't just own said content providers outright.

This unholy merger of content creation and delivery is designed for one purpose: to stonewall the growing number of consumers who are cutting the cord, breaking free from overpriced cable TV mega-packages in order to watch what they want on their own terms. Without any checks and balances, Comcast and the like will do their best to make sure they we pay dearly for every minute of TV we watch, every second of music we listen to, and every bit and byte we read online. Netflix and Youtube are threats that need to be eliminated. The horses of the apocalypse are being sent out to ensure it happens.

And it's getting less and less likely that anyone's gonna be able to stop them.
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