Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you know what that means – sitting alone in your dark bedroom, watching videos of famous YouTube families being ridiculously happy and feeling very, very lonely yourself.
You could go out and spend some time with your friends, or maybe take a walk and feed a pigeon some of that questionable bread that’s been sitting in the back of your fridge. That’ll cheer you up. But you won’t, because it is far more romantic to sit alone, wallowing, feeling the solitude permeate through the air much like the soft music from that gloomy “This is: Leonard Cohen” Spotify playlist you have on. What are you wallowing about? You’re not exactly sure, but it feels right. After all, you saw all those poignant memes on Twitter about, like, discounted chocolate, and they really resonated with you
Wow. This is a tough one. What’s it going to take to get you in a better mood? What do you usually do when you’re in this state? Hmmm…Oh, that’s right! You watch seasons 2 and 3 of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, paying careful attention to Rory and Jess’s relationship arc, and cry until you fall asleep. You always feel better after watching strong, independent women like Rory and Lorelai traverse the volatile paths of Life and Love. Online TV streaming can just be so therapeutic and inspirational!
But wait! You just remembered that Trump is in the White House, the swamp is overflowing, and the new F.C.C. chairman wants to take away your rights to free and equal internet access!
That’s right, Ajit Pai, President Trump’s pick for chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is super anti-net neutrality, and he has already started taking measures to undo Obama administration consumer protection regulations. But what is net neutrality? According to Investopedia, it is “the concept that all data on the internet should be treated equally by corporations, such as internet service providers, and governments, regardless of content, user, platform, application or device.” Net neutrality prohibits internet service providers from discriminating when it comes to speed for certain websites, and from engaging in business arrangements where companies can (or are forced to) pay service providers to have their traffic prioritized. For example, right now, if my service provider is Comcast, they cannot slow down my access to Netflix because it would benefit the competing company, Hulu, that they own.
If Pai has his way, which is very possible, this will all change, and Netflix could be forced to pay a premium to certain ISPs for faster access, thus driving up prices. Two Republican FCC commissioners have already vowed to overturn the FCC’s current net neutrality rules and other regulations, and one Trump team member has even argued to get rid of the F.C.C. altogether. That means no regulation, and nothing stopping internet service providers from exploiting consumers and tailoring internet services to benefit their corporations.
Eliminating net neutrality is honestly disastrous, not only for Netflix prices, but for my emotional wellbeing.
Because, being without a valentine, I count on Netflix to let me vicariously live out perfect romances by watching my favorite TV episodes over and over. And I swear to God, If I can’t watch Jim and Pam in seasons 2 and 4 of the Office as much as I please without it buffering nonstop, or having to pay a ridiculous monthly fee, there is no telling what will happen to me. There is no telling what will happen to millions just like me.
To put this in familiar love story terms, I like to think of the average consumer as Juliet, Netflix as Romeo, Comcast as Capulet, and Hulu as Paris. A world with net neutrality is a delightful Shakespearian comedy, and a world without net neutrality is a horrible Shakespearian tragedy. With net neutrality, Juliet and Romeo are allowed to be together, get married, and watch as many episodes of Portlandia in bed together as they want, without having to worry about daylight or the pesky lark. But without net neutrality, civil blood makes civil hands unclean, and Capulet will not allow Juliet to be with Romeo. Instead, Capulet tries to force Juliet to marry Paris because they are related, and everyone ends up dead. Sure, Paris may be alright, but you have to pay extra for no ads and less movies, and frankly, you’re just in love with Romeo. Taking this all into account, it is a lot more fun, and less bloody, in the regulated comedic world.
Deregulation when it comes to net neutrality is fundamentally anti-competitive, and anti-free market. The government has an obligation to regulate strong oligopolies, and protect smaller businesses as well as consumers from gigantic corporate control. All it takes is a high school level government course to know that. This kind of deregulation would SOLELY benefit large internet service providers, and undoubtedly hurt ALL internet consumers, especially those who have trouble affording internet as it is.
Also, free competition for all is just downright sexy.
Honestly, I can’t think of anything more exciting than knowing that there are service providers constantly bidding for my attention and business. Sometimes I open Firefox and wait for it to ask to be my default browser, just so I can feel the rush of clicking “no” and going back to Google Chrome. And the F.C.C. is trying to say that Time Warner Cable is allowed to make the internet slower for me because I want to look at NBC instead of CNN, one of their assets? Just like when Edward creepily took the engine out of Bella’s car so she wouldn’t go to visit Jacob? Hell no! That is not okay! If I wanna go visit Jacob, I’m gonna go visit Jacob, and no jealous vampire should be able to stop me!
(In all honesty though, I am team Edward.)
In conclusion, the threat to free, equal internet access is very real and imminent. As we have seen, there is little limit to what the Trump administration is willing and able to do with loaded employees and a cabinet that overwhelmingly favors large, greedy corporations. This Valentine’s Day as you munch on the candy hearts you bought for yourself and stream He’s Just Not That Into You, know that it could be one of the last like this. Either net neutrality will be saved by the strong will of the people, or it will die with the Trump administration and you will be forced to find other ways to curb your loneliness, like get into a relationship.