Water, Power, Stories: Your Netflix Just Got Cut

Posted on: by Michael Tringe

Cord cutters just got their cords cut.  Remember getting a bad DVD that skipped or waiting three days for a movie or getting a DVD lost in the mail?  We’re going back to that.  We’ve come to expect equal access to Internet usage at a fair price and services like Netflix and its full library of stories.  But just when you were starting to enjoy the luxury of this 21st Century utility – what does no more Net Neutrality mean for you and your access to stories (or online education for that matter)?

And while we’re not there yet, you’ve certainly had to sit tight during a dramatic moment while the screen froze because your streaming wasn’t streaming.   That’s not just a bad viewing experience, it’s an impossible one that makes you want to quit watching and do something else.  And coming soon it may be that if you don’t pony up the extra bucks for speed and quality video, watching online content will get slower and won’t look as great either. You can’t pay? You get less.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Net Neutrality, it’s a simple concept that used to be protected by US Law (as of yesterday) that everyone should have equal access to Internet bandwidth without being charged for the amount they’re consuming. All of that is going away now that the carriers like Verizon, AT&T, etc. have decided they want to start charging more for people who are using it more.

We were living in the golden era of the Internet when equal access made it what it was. Now, as online media content get thicker and richer and more prevalent with more people wanting access to it more regularly, we’re moving back to the stone-age where free access to information is actually…well, not that free. Goodbye Net Neutrality.

There has never been great Internet as a utility equality to begin with in the US in particular, but this is just another step away from the dream of access to everyone. This presents a problem for both consumers and producers of creative content. When you limit your audience, you’re also limiting the kind of projects that will reach a broader audience. So not only does this decision have implication for access to stories, but it also creates a block for creators and filmmakers who want to reach those audiences who can’t pay more.

Having lived in Morocco and China – I know what it’s like to have limited access to media and Internet – and what happens is this: consumers will find a way around it, and that way may not be a legal way. The unfortunate thing about that – is that it limits content creators’ ability to monetize that content legally too. So thanks to these decisions – we’ve placed yet another clamp on the lowly artist who won’t be getting their cut of the cut.

Limiting communications bandwidth influences the entire ecosystem of creation. It’s up to artists and consumers alike to fight for equal access to media content for everyone to be able to watch and hear these stories. Or maybe we can look forward to subsidized subscriptions via ads in our Netflix feed if we want top quality and speed – just like Pandora. But then that would be TV all over again.

And if you’re thinking this only affects entertainment – think of the implications that it has for the hopes the Internet had for democratizing equal access to knowledge through online education with video content. Without Net Neutrality, limited bandwidth isn’t helping online education startups reach more people with courses either.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also enjoy reading about other topics related to online education:

Innovating on Online Arts Education

A Personalized Learning Environment

Peer to Peer Tutoring: It’s a Good Thing, and It’s Free

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Written by Michael Tringe

Mike Tringe earned his MFA in Film Production from USC and has worked at Creative Artists Agency Film Sales (Paranormal Activity, Black Swan), Vuguru, Michael Eisner's multi-platform studio, (The Booth at the End (Hulu), Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Snag), Little Women Big Cars (AOL), and Blip Networks (300 million monthly views, Smosh, Annoying Orange, Nostalgia Critic).

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