April 24, 2014

What Does the FCC's New Proposal Mean for Net Neutrality and Content Creators?

EthernetThe magical thing about the internet is the fact that it allows for an open and free exchange of dialog, ideas, and information. However the Federal Communication Commission's proposal regarding net neutrality could allow paying content companies, like Netflix, Google, and even Facebook, better access to users online. Even though the FCC has released a statement that attempts to set the record straight about their new proposal, many are still convinced that these new regulations would mean the end of net neutrality and the internet as we know it. Continue on to find out more about the FCC's proposals could mean for filmmakers.

Net neutrality creates an even playing field online -- creators can share their content without fear of preferential or discriminatory treatment from service providers, meaning that all data, regardless of who created it, is treated equally. Though the FCC claims that their proposal wouldn't allow ISPs to outright block content or slow down sites, it would allow them to pay for "preferential treatment."

In a statement posted yesterday, the FCC states what their notice will propose:

  1. That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network;
  2. That no legal content may be blocked; and
  3. That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.

This video from The Verge sums things up nicely:

So, what does all of this mean? Or better yet, what could all of this mean? What could potentially happen to the internet if only the richest media companies are able to afford preferential treatment? At this point, everything is just speculation, but for filmmakers who are currently enjoying the freedom to share and consume content on the largest open platform in the world, there is a fear that this democratized system will eventually fade into obscurity -- along with our work.

One Reddit user designed an illustration that gives a hypothetical look at what the future of this not-so-neutral internet could look like in the form of a pricing rubric. Does it look like a cable TV pricing table to you? It does to me. (It's quite chilling.)

Net Neutrality

The implications of the FCC's proposal is deep, complex, and far-reaching, with many important factors and players. So, feel free to share your thoughts about this issue in the comments below.

[Header image by Flickr user Erwin Morales]

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52 Comments

holy cow I really hope this doesn't happen!! too scary to think about!

April 24, 2014 at 11:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nickthecameraguy

They just keep finding new ways to screw over the public in favor of corporations. But don't worry, I'm sure all the extra money these companies will be making will benefit us all. FML

April 25, 2014 at 1:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Sam

Most of these public statements are really economically and politically ignorant. The root of the problems goes back to the 1970's when the local municipalities only licensed a single cable company to operate in their districts, i.e., they created regional monopolies that were subsequently consolidated by the "big dog eats the little dogs" principle. That monopoly scheme gave local politicians a voice in how this franchisee ran his business but eliminated the competition for services. Furthermore, it gave an impetus to these cable companies to seek political favors, thereby establishing them as major lobbyists on every level, from Washington to local townships. So, when this girl in the Verge video says, "Tell your Congressman about it", she's ignoring the power of the infrastructure players and instead (foolishly) claims the nobility of her own industry, the content creators. The reality, however, is that broadband infrastructure investment has been in hundreds of billions and the cable and telephone companies do have the right to seek a return on that investment. That in turn prompted the content creators/owners such as Netflix to enter into financial arrangements that allowed Comcast to recoup part of their investment by charging Netflix for the "preferential treatment". Most businesses in the US economy are allowed to do so. Even highways, usually but not always controlled by the local authorities, are allowed to charge for faster/carpool lanes (or, in turn, penalize those who skirt the rules). There's nothing exceptional about the content creators that gives them the right to demand free or equal access to these broadband pipes. Had cable companies been ordered to give away something for nothing, they'd simply curtail their investment into the infrastructure and the internet would quickly devolve back to the stone, meaning dial-up, age.
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Now, the situation can be quite different for the consumer, the person/household actually paying the internet bill. Sadly, the broadband consumer is not a special interest with a powerful lobby and millions in donations. His best move is to seek alternative means of receiving his internet ... but this is where local politicians hold sway. Where, ideally, a fiber-to-home service would give him that option, the fiber cable laying companies are having a very difficult time negotiating with the local authorities who have long standing contacts with the cable powerhouses. Which makes this another dead end because, in this scenario, an old escape into the satellite dish world simply won't do.
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Off the NAB'14, the likely solution being pontificated by FCC is to persuade the current owners of the airwaves - i.e, the various TV network owners - to sell off these frequencies, so the government can subsequently auction them off to the wireless service providers. In return, the TV folks would get some sort of a "net neutrality" equivalent from FCC. There's no mention of what's in it for the likes of Comcast, Charter, Timer Warner, Cox, etc., however, and one can be darn sure that they won't be interested in giving anything away for free.

April 25, 2014 at 3:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Hi DLD, thanks for explanation. I hear what you're saying but I can't help to think, why in the world would Comcast/NBC need to charge us more for their service? They have more money than God. The owners are billionaires many times over. How much more do they really need to be charging their customers? I'm all about free enterprise and I believe in the capitalist system however when is enough, enough. How many more billions do they really to need to make off all of us? Thanks

April 25, 2014 at 9:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Anthony Marino

Because their greedy.

April 25, 2014 at 10:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brandy

It is about money but whats more important is the control issue. It is very important for these guys to control and regulate information. As the internet has become this open source for news/socializing/entertainment the reality is the reins they once commanded so entirely are no longer relevant.

May 1, 2014 at 1:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tyler

The infrastructure has already been paid for by our cable fees. You're right, government was responsible for giving them a monopoly and should therefore be allowed to govern them much like a utility. It would be something if carpool lanes and fast lanes actually did something to improve infrastructure and traffic, but they don't, they only equal more money for the city with more congestion in the "free" lanes. The same will be true for our internet highways. It will not solve or improve anything, but slow down the free lanes, and charge more for those who can afford to do so. It's bullshit.

April 25, 2014 at 11:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

This is not really true considering the cable companies do not have nationwide networks. Comcast leases access from another company. The telcos are the ones with big infrastructure and the government broke up their monopoly.

April 25, 2014 at 11:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

A return on an investment that we provided. Those companies are given tax breaks and subsidies on a regular basis and collect fees that are supposed to be used to build out that network to a broader audience.

Here's one example, but there are others if you care to look:
http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/New-Jersey-Lets-Verizon-Off-the-Hook-...

The internet is a utility, one that is increasingly necessary for basic employment. And to use a straw man argument to claim that the content creators are demanding free internet is disingenuous at best.

April 25, 2014 at 1:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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mike

How much does it cost to build out a network? I have some fiber in the ground and I'd lease you a pair for. 4000.00 a foot. Let me know if you are interested. Internet is not a utility and even if it were, utility is not an argument for net neutrality. That link is a joke. You guys actually thought they could fiber out the whole state for a couple billion? Quit falling for stuff like that sucka because it proves that you want something for nothing.

April 25, 2014 at 1:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Next time just write that you didn't read the link.

Here's another you won't read, but maybe others who aren't adorable trolls will:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/04/the-end-of-net-ne...

April 25, 2014 at 3:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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mike

I am a troll because you disagree with me? What are you like 12 years old or something? You really need to get a clue about the industry before you start spouting off a bunch of crap. Do you think the guys who lay all that fiber just do it for free or something? I am 100% sure that you don't even know what fiber is. Try to educate yourself man, you are wrong and you lost.

April 25, 2014 at 4:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kyle

No, he is calling you a troll because you didn't even address what the article was talking about. The article doesn't say how much either state gave in tax cuts and subsidies. The point is, they were basically given billions to put in broadband, but were essentially allowed to walk away from doing so without paying a penny back.

April 25, 2014 at 6:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brett

Ok and I will reply with calling you guys trolls for not doing the research to find out what it would actually cost to do that. I'm not sure if it's trolling or just being lazy and thinking the world owes you something. It amazes me how some people just think it's magic. Purchasing right of way and tearing up streets to lay fiber is massively expensive. Bummer you guys fell for that. But this still has nothing to do with net neutrality.

April 25, 2014 at 6:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

I don't get why you are so hung up on costs here. No one said it's not expensive. But the expense is irrelevant in this case. It could cost a trillion dollars and not matter. When they entered into the agreement, they knew the costs too. Or were they just being lazy when signing it?

Everything costs something to create. If you can't afford it, you don't agree to do it. Simple as that. And if you do agree to do it, it's not exactly right to back out of it and take the money too.

April 25, 2014 at 8:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brett

Hey, great post. In Europe they have net neutrality - the big companies still make plenty of money, but the consumer isn't screwed - everyone wins. In America it's all about greed, and justifying that greed. They'll take more money from us, but our (US) internet won't get any better - in fact, it's second class compared to Europe and Japan - always has been. Where is all this "investment" these second rate US companies claim to have made to "improve" the internet? US providers give us the minimum possible for the most amount of money - this scheme will allow them to charge more money for the same crappy product - where is their incentive to improve anything?

April 26, 2014 at 3:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ed Wright

This is grass roots media's hour and the window won't be open for much longer. The big movie houses on the block see their future threatened by the 'no film schoolers' and 'basement studioers' that rival the big boys multi billion dollar productions with a paultry camera, some editing software and a note book computer. Netflix content is becoming ever less sophisticated and widely accepted by audiences that appreciated a good storyline more than a perfect.produtction. if this continues much longer then the major studio's demise is imminent. Rest assured that while grass root film makers are taking their stab at amusing the masses, the big boys are looking for ways to neuter the rising threat the micro film industry has become. The only way to counteract the big boy's deep pockets and political clout it by producing films that rolemodel public activism and teach how to effectively challenge the mainstream political and industrial arena. The people own the airwaves... and politicians only do what the media lets them get away with. Never underestimate the power that a concerted grass roots effort can weild especially when we're talking about grass roots media and entertainment that can be used to mobilize the masses that are being trampled. of the people by the people and for the people.

April 30, 2014 at 2:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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map

People are freaking out about this. Not all traffic is equal, 911 calls should get a higher priority than bit torrent. And what are we talking about here an extra 0.5 seconds added to your download... Who cares.

April 25, 2014 at 8:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

I hear what your saying. But When you're already paying $80/month for "high-speed" internet, another $30 for subscription services such as netflix, amazon, hulu, etc. and then find out you can't really get a 1080p stream because your ISP is throttling you, that sucks. At this point why did I cut the cord from the cable TV model? Some days the image is great and some days it's like 240p feed from AOL dial up days. TV has no drop in service if everyone is watching at the same time. But if all of a sudden little Timmy down the street starts grabbing a bunch of Torrents now the whole block is fucked. Before they start charging more for less they should focus on better service. It's a shame they didn't let Google buy the old analog spectrum so we could have free wifi nationwide.

April 25, 2014 at 11:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jorge Cayon

Exactly, why the F*%@! are we paying for fast internet if they are going to throttle the very same thing we are paying the fast internet fees for? WTF?

April 25, 2014 at 11:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

Go build out your own network then. You do not make the rules. Sorry all your stolen music and movies will take an extra 5 seconds to download.

April 25, 2014 at 11:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Kyle, you're a troll. I don't need to pirate anything. Have a good day.

April 25, 2014 at 12:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

I'm not a troll. You are the one here dropping F bombs and crying because you can't have something for free.

April 25, 2014 at 12:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Right I'm arguing about paying for something because I'm getting it for free? Keep trolling troll.

April 25, 2014 at 12:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

Tony, sorry you can't have it your way. Your side lost on this one as they should have. Maybe someday you can have your own network and run it your way. Best of luck to you.

April 25, 2014 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Kyle, isn't there a better place you can troll? I hear Glenn Beck is holding a tea party rally against an atheist black Mexican from Nigeria with no birth certificate running for president. He wants to take yer guns away. He specifically mentioned Kyles guns.

April 25, 2014 at 8:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

Why would you post such a racist thing? You have problems man. Seek help.

April 26, 2014 at 12:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

That's your people Kyle http://youtube.com/watch?v=S38VioxnBaI. That is the ignorance you represent.

April 26, 2014 at 1:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

Tony, I don't know why you would share a link like that. You obviously have lost the argument so you have gone to the only place you have left which is calling others poopy heads. Try to grow up a little bit troll.

April 26, 2014 at 9:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Those with the infrastructure make the rules. They own it. The current infrastructure is not paid for many times over. If you boys want net neutrality I triple dog dare you to go build out your own network and run it any way you please. These companies with millions of subscribers are doing all they can to keep up and your 80 bucks a month didn't even pay for the cable from the pole to your house.

April 25, 2014 at 11:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

If that were true, then Gas Stations could price gouge you...but they can't. They've also built their own infrastructure. They also aren't a utility.

And that's a joke to think that the companies are struggling to make money and keep up. Also, built into the pricing of practically everything you buy is profit margins. No one that stays in business sells their product for what it costs them to make it. Thus, the $80/month does help pay for that cable from the pole. You need to go back to Business 101.

April 25, 2014 at 6:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brett

You need to get a clue. Gas stations cannot gouge you because every gas station would have to get on board. If a small handful say no our gas is going to be cheap they would get everyone's business. And what infrastructure have gas stations built? Do you think there are lines that go back to a refinery or something? There aren't. Fuel is in underground tanks, how is that infrastructure? And gas stations do gouge you but they do it inside the store not at the pump. You liberals think you are so smart. Read a book for a change.

April 25, 2014 at 6:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

You are completely wrong. Price gouging doesn't work not because not enough gas stations can get on board (which they all would up their pricing if allowed to), but because of regulation. Some gas stations don't have competition, yet they still can't up their pricing. Same when disasters occur.

And what infrastructure? All good businesses have some kind of infrastructure that allows them to do what they are doing. Yes, ISPs put down the fiber, but that fiber is useless without the content creators.

April 25, 2014 at 8:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brett

There is no regulation for gas price. The only regulation is free market. Can your liberal mind grasp that? Fiber is useless without content creators? Are you sure about that?. What about phone calls? Those use fiber. Bank transactions, pretty much anything that goes over the network uses fiber at some point. Stop acting so smug because you are completely out of your element on this topic. I can't believe you refuse to even do a google search before spouting off.

April 25, 2014 at 9:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Kyle, I find it amazing that you have no clue what you are talking about. Someone that goes off calling someone a name "liberal" based off one topic already is biased. Just google price gouging of gas stations. It's not allowed. The government does have some regulations for gas prices. That's not entirely a free market. In a free market gas stations in the middle of nowhere could charge 10x the amount if they wanted to. Or if there was a natural disaster there could be a dramatic increased in prices to take advantage of people. But they can't. It's regulated. Not to mention there are some regulations on the gas itself. Hate to tell you, but things that are considered fairly essential tend to be regulated so that the people aren't completely taken advantage of. Internet is being put in that area.

April 28, 2014 at 4:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brett

Brett, you can't even do a simple google search before posting. You are a troll who just makes stuff up and spouts it off as fact. You are in the minority on net neutrality and I will not reply to you again

April 25, 2014 at 9:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Same as always - american consumers are getting ripped off by big companies again - remember, this form of greedy price gouging isn't allowed in Europe and their internet service is BETTER than ours - we pay too much for everything - including meds - because big business (almost) gets away with murder in the USA. Maybe it's all those politicians taking money from them - but it's also the indifference of the american public that lets them get away with it. C'mon people, speak up!

April 26, 2014 at 3:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ed Wright

Look another liberal who thinks the world owes him something. Most European country's are tiny compared to the US. If the US was that small our internet would be better than theirs. Why can't you do any research on this before spouting off your BS as fact?

April 26, 2014 at 9:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

Please be more specific about what is cheaper in Europe. Sure as hell isn't gas prices. You liberals made the FDA and now you complain because they make meds expensive. You have nobody to blame but yourselves.

April 26, 2014 at 9:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

I know this is a really weird position to take, but I think about a future where Indy filmmakers can't afford to put their stuff online, and I suddenly imagine a return to independent film festivals that matter and large scale local film showings. Also, I can see a lot of pretenders giving up when the going gets tough and a less noisy playing field emerging for those who are truly serious about the craft. And even if a new version of the web makes it hard to distribute, I'm sure an alternative web community will figure something out.

I love the internet as it is, and I hope this doesn't happen. But if it does, I'm kind of ready for it. I feel like it might force independent filmmaking to up its game and maybe return to its roots.

April 25, 2014 at 10:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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It's the thin end of the wedge...

April 25, 2014 at 11:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob

if Netflix cannot deliver an HD stream that is on Netflix not your local ISP. This whole thing is silly, Netflix needs a bigger pipe at their location not the other way around.

April 25, 2014 at 12:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chad

Oh boy, just what we need; more Government regulation.

April 25, 2014 at 3:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Scott

It's not Government regulation, it's more like Government De-Regulation. Once again Government provides Socialism for the one percent while screwing the ninety-nine percent. Same as it ever was.

April 25, 2014 at 5:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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c.d.embrey

How exactly is anyone being screwed here?

April 26, 2014 at 9:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kyle

The corporate lobbyists win again.

April 25, 2014 at 4:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan H

Yep except this time its actually a good thing.

April 25, 2014 at 4:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kyle

America at it's greatest when the former cable and wireless telecom lobbyist Tom Wheeler gets elected as head of the FCC? And no one smells fish? Once he's done working at the FCC he's certain to go back to work for the very same corporate wigs who's agenda he pushed, except with a fatter paycheck.

April 25, 2014 at 9:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

so what. this is why you will never be successful at anything you do Tony. Stop worrying about others so much. Realize the world owes you nothing and make you own way. Good luck I think you are really going to need it.

April 26, 2014 at 5:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kyle

Also in June the FCC is appointing Meredith Attwell Baker as president. Another high level lobbyist for Comcast. Money buys everything in Washington. She will surely change regulation in favor of Comcast one again.

April 26, 2014 at 12:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tony

waaaa the world owes tony a living.

April 26, 2014 at 5:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kyle

this is such a horrible idea. the moment net neutrality is not enforced, ISP will start charging usage for specific sites (just like the reddit image displays). What happens when the ISP says, hey, you're using netflix too much, so you need a surcharge of $10. it's crazy.

September 10, 2014 at 12:02AM

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David Wang
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