Goodbye Freedom, Farewell Net Neutrality, Hello Machiavellian Broadband
Say goodbye to the good old days – under the FCC’s now defunct Open Internet Order – when broadband providers were prohibited from discriminating against any type of Internet traffic that flows through their servers. Now the FCC has proposed a new set of rules that while preventing ISPs from outright blocking anyone, allows them to deliver different services at different speeds.
“AT&T, Verizon and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all,” lawyer and Internet activist Marvin Ammori wrote in a Wired article shortly before the court’s decision.
Aside from preventing you from buying shoes from Zappos because they are getting money from a pricier competitor, ISP providers could intentionally slow down your favorite award winning Netflix or Amazon shows and movies to make them virtually unwatchable. At the same time, they’ll give you the highest speed for shows that they own. As these providers aim to see services like YouTube and Netflix dead or close to it, they can start ramping up the costs for consumers to watch their shows – the only shows they can now access.
Even bigger picture worries, according to 5 Freedoms You’ll Lose Without Net Neutrality, an article by Tom’s Guide, include losing freedom of the press, freedom to start a business, and freedom of information during elections because of unequal internet access.
Sound like the U.S. or the U.S.S.R?
Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, under Trump, recently reaffirmed his belief that the “days are numbered” for the current open internet rules. It is widely believed that he seeks to strip the FCC of much of its regulating authority.
“The threat that those rules might be overturned should be of utmost concern to Silicon Valley and the broader tech industry. Tech companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix and Apple have thrived in an environment ruled by the principles of net neutrality, where they don’t have to worry about whether they’ll be able to reach their customers over the internet or whether broadband providers might slow down access to their sites, services or apps,” commented the San Jose Mercury News tech columnist Troy Wolverton.
The Empire Strikes Back at Streaming Content
The death threat to net neutrality could very well be Trump adminstration’s very own version of The Empire Strikes Back. The uptick in popularity of alternative online media providers like Netflix, Hulu and SlingTV are giving the big broadband companies a serious run for the money. And they don’t like it. As young and low-income people – sometimes one and the same – cut the cable cord in growing numbers, members of the old guard including AT&T, Time Warner and Comcast have mustered all their power to push forward with plans to abolish net neutrality, disembowel the Federal Communications Commission and squish the competition like a bug.
If Trump’s plan is to strike-back, it is not without irony. As Tom Wheeler, the FCC chair during the Obama years, recently pointed out in an interview with ArsTechnica, Trump’s rural supporters may be among those most in need of net neutrality and the unfettered access to low-cost streaming content it provides.
Two-thirds of Americans with the most limited broadband access – people in rural areas who are most vulnerable to the actions of the major broadband players – include those who are among the most likely to have voted for Trump.
Ditching Cable for Cheaper Better Entertainment Content
Your grandparents bought a TV, plugged it in, turned it on. And then there was content from all three major networks, public television and maybe a local station or two of it, for free. Then came the 80’s and cable. Hundreds of new channel options – sports, cooking, exercise, movies and pop music — appeared. But if you wanted your MTV, you had to pay for it. Suddenly there was a monthly cable bill.
When the internet came along a decade later and then cell phone service, those monthly service charges got bundled along with the landline and cable. Suddenly people were paying hundreds of dollars each month.
Finally, necessity started fueling invention. The floodgates opened for new solutions to come in — hacks to the establishment.
Netflix, which had been successfully renting movie DVDs by mail, launched online streaming content in 2007. Now a decade later it has more than 80 million monthly subscribers who are gladly paying $8 – $10 a month for access. The company continues to staff for development. Although it hires fewer people than the broadband players, according to Paysa data, it pays its engineers quite well. Base pay for an engineer is $242,265 and for a senior data engineer it’s $280,490.
Remember Blockbuster – the video company that got bought and wrapped into DISH? Their video retail business died a slow death. They’ve also gotten into the streaming act as of late, launching SlingTV in 2015 with a selection of major cable channels that can be streamed through smart TVs, digital media players and apps – all for only $20 per month.
Sling and other services like it are targeted at a slice of the market called cord cutters.
According to a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center on home broadband use, a shift in how people watch TV is underway, as the Pew data suggest 15% of American adults or one in seven are now “cord cutters” – that is, they indicate that they once had a cable or satellite TV connection, but no longer subscribe.
The report says that another 9% of Americans have never had a cable or satellite subscription at all, meaning that a total of 24% of Americans currently do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV in their homes (76% of Americans subscribe to pay TV service at home). And today, some 13% of adults rely on their smartphone for online access at home (that is, they have a smartphone but no home broadband subscription), compared with 8% in 2013.
Roku, Netflix, Pick Your Preference: Other Options are Going Strong, At Least for Now
Whether you are on a budget or just determined to break free from Comcast, Time Warner and other cable providers for entertainment content, at least for now, there are other options.
You could choose to stream content via services like Netflix and Hulu. You could also opt for set-top boxes like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and AppleTV. Many of these offer a small device that attaches to your smart TV and can be operated through apps that turn your phone into the remote.
Still, set-top boxes and subscriptions that let you stream internet content are all growing at breakneck speeds – leaving Satellite companies and the big broadband providers behind in their tracks.
According to Paysa data, Roku, with a Company Rank of 140 is well ahead of Satellite providers DirecTV, with a Paysa CompanyRank of 400, and DISH Network at number 1516. By comparison, even Netflix is ranked at number 21 and Hulu at 206. See company rank for all here.
No Need to Be Greedy, Cable Companies You Are Doing Just Fine
Most households continue to be willing to have broadband and to pay the asking price. The costs of staying connected have soared as Americans now readily pay hundreds of dollars a month for cell phones, data plans, cable and broadband access — expenses that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years-ago. To put things into perspective, last year Comcast pulled in $5 billion.
Paysa job data shows that Comcast intends to continue pushing forward with more digital content and is staffing up for that. And so are its competitors.
- Comcast posted 2,736 tech jobs this past year, 430 of those were in February and 160 so far in March
- Verizon posted 2,212 tech jobs this past year, 481 were in February and 137 so far in March
- AT&T posted 900 tech jobs in the past year, 75 of them this month
- Netflix posted 361 tech jobs this past year, 16 of them this month
With all those hires, the broadband providers are looking like they need to spread the salaries a little thin. AT&T pays an engineer a base of $82,752 and a senior technical director $141,723. Comcast pays an engineer a base of $94,895 and a senior engineer $111,401. Time Warner Cable pays an engineer a base of $89,167 and a senior software engineer $110,247.
Many of the most recent job openings – 996 to be exact – are in and around Denver where Comcast has headquarters. Another 646 are based in Philadelphia where Comcast also has corporate offices.
While the behemoth broadband providers certainly are continuing to power their staffing engines to fuel their growing business – which may soon see an even greater spike with the end of net neutrality looming, Silicon Valley – home to Netflix and others who are making it possible to stream content all without cable – are not far behind with nearly 660 jobs located between Los Gatos and San Jose. New York City, the traditional home of the television industry is the setting for 392 new jobs and 277 are in Basking Ridge, NJ. Atlanta has 325 jobs and 229 are based in Irving, Texas.
How Trump Voters Can Get A Piece of the Net Neutrality Pie
When it comes to jobs, there just might be a silver lining in store for these so-called Trump voters and others who might not have access to the Internet via broadband – whether that be due to net neutrality being on the chopping block or by choice. While the majority of these jobs require only a bachelor’s degree – 57.9 percent –the skills and education required are clearly not Ivy League.
Many hires come from vocational tech schools such as the University of Phoenix and DeVry University. Other colleges hired from include state colleges such as University of Maryland College Park, the University of Texas, Dallas and Rutgers University, New Brunswick and tech colleges such as Stevens Institute of Technology and Georgia Institute of Technology.