Is Verizon trying to kill Netflix? It depends who you ask

verizon fcc net neutrality netflix tv main

Between Syria, the release of iOS 7 and Apple’s new iPhones, and that silly “What Does the Fox Say?” song, there’s not been much brain bandwidth for yet another important event in the world of tech. Which is what makes Verizon’s lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Communications Commission all the more obnoxious, boring, and easy to ignore. Still, the suit could potentially have a major impact on anyone who uses the Internet, Netflix users especially – at least, that’s what the reports are telling us. Is there reason to worry? Let’s check it out.

Quick, what is the lawsuit about?

It’s about “net neutrality,” a concept that basically says that Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon can’t give preferential treatment to certain types of Internet traffic – like increasing Internet speeds for companies that pay them, or slowing down speeds (or blocking content) for those that don’t. Verizon doesn’t like net neutrality, for a variety of reasons.

Like what?

Verizon, like Comcast and others before it, particularly doesn’t like it that the FCC just went ahead and established itself as Ruler of the Internet without Congressional approval. It did this with the passage of the “Open Internet” order back in 2010. Taking the FCC down a notch is one of the main goals of this legal challenge – in fact, you could say it’s the main beef between the two organizations. 

Furthermore, ISPs worry that FCC regulation may continue to increase, leading to price regulations that these companies say would by damaging to their business, consumers, and everyone in between.

Is Verizon right?

Hey, don’t ask me – that’s for the court to decide. But many believe there is a valid legal argument against the FCC’s Internet fairness rules.

Would it be good if Verizon wins?

Depends who you ask, of course. Those who oppose the FCC on this think that letting the free market decide how to handle Internet traffic would be a much better solution. Moreover, they say, it would let ISPs charge you less for your connection to the Web because you wouldn’t be paying for all that YouTube and Snapchat traffic.

Okay, that sounds pretty good. What’s the flipside?

The flipside is a dark and murky place. Proponents of net neutrality – and, on principle, I admit to being one of them – believe that without it ISPs would have the power to wreak havoc on the open Web in a variety of ways. First, they could slow traffic from websites or online services that compete with their own offerings. Or they could charge those companies out the yin-yang to pay for their own spikes in traffic, which could drown start-ups and smaller businesses. And, if ISPs wanted to get really nasty, they could, theoretically, censor certain types of content altogether.

Cord cutters and YouTube addicts might get priced out.

As for cost, that might not be so hot either. Verizon, for example, could charge you not only for the speed of your Internet connection and the amount of data you use, but for the types of online services you receive. It could also result in all the various social networks, apps, and online games you use and play to jack up their prices to cover their operating costs. In other words, that price drop the ISPs like to talk about would only benefit people who barely use the Internet. Cord cutters and YouTube addicts might get priced out.

In short, the Internet would not be the open, awesome thing it is today – at least if you get your Internet from ISPs that have an evil streak.

Yikes! Could it really get that bad? 

Again, that’s a tough one to answer because this is all speculation – perhaps you can gas your DeLorean up to 88mph and find out for us.

No? Lame – but okay: The concerns about an end to net neutrality – which is what’s at stake with this Verizon challenge – are technically valid; they could happen without the FCC there to stop it.  However, according to Verizon supporters, ISPs don’t want to do any of that, you crazy fool! They just want everything to be fair – laissez faire. Ha! (I’ll see myself out.)

Alright, I’m still confused and on the fence about this whole net neutrality thing. Just tell me: Is Verizon trying to kill Netflix? And, if they are, could they actually do it?

Verizon and the rest of the ISPs mainly want the Netflixes of the world to pay their fair share for the traffic they send over the ISPs’ wires. If that happens, however, one of two things will probably happen: That $8-per-month Netflix bill you have will skyrocket. And/or Netflix will die. Even Verizon’s supporters admit that much.

In other words, even if you consider yourself a free-market idealist, if you like your $8 Netflix, you’d better hope the courts tell Verizon to bugger off.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

Cut cable and keep quality with TiVo's 4K-friendly Bolt OTA DVR

Free over-the-air programming isn’t available in 4K, so why would you want a 4K OTA DVR? We’ll discuss what makes the new TiVo Bolt OTA a viable choice for cord-cutters with 4K UHD TVs who want to get ahead of the game.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Home Theater

I’ve seen the 8K TV future, and you should be excited. Here’s why

Samsung set the tech world on fire when it announced it would sell an 85-inch 8K TV in the U.S. along with several 8K screen sizes in Europe. Debates over the validity and value of such a high resolution have continued since, and we're here…
Mobile

Inferiority is a feature now! Palm's new plan is psychotic

The Palm is a smartphone to reduce your smartphone usage, or a small smartphone for when you don't want to carry your big smartphone. Palm itself doesn't seem sure which it is, but either way, it's a product that's so witless, we're amazed…
Home Theater

Budget TVs are finally worth buying, and you can thank Roku

Not all that long ago, budget TVs were only worth looking at if, well, you were on a budget. Thanks to Roku, not only are budget TVs now a viable option for anyone, but they might even be a better buy than more expensive TVs.
Mobile

Huawei and Leica’s monochrome lens is dead, so we celebrate its life

The Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro do not have a dedicated monochrome camera lens, unlike the P20 Pro, and various Huawei and Leica phones before it. It's the end of an era, and also the start of a new one, as Leica has worked on its…
Mobile

Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

Smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, LG, Sony, and Motorola are releasing far too many similar phones. The update cycle has accelerated, but more choice is not always a good thing.
Opinion

Do we even need 5G at all?

Faster phones, easier access to on-demand video, simpler networking -- on the surface, 5G sounds like a dream. So why is it more of a nightmare?
Computing

Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer's Blade 15 is an awesome laptop for both gamers, streamers, professionals, and anyone else needing serious go in a slim profile, but its price is out of reach for many games. The new Blade 15 Base solves that problem with few…
Gaming

Going to hell, again. The Switch makes 'Diablo 3' feel brand-new

I've played every version of Diablo 3 released since 2012, racking up hundreds of hours in the process. Six years later, I'm playing it yet again on Nintendo Switch. Somehow, it still feels fresh.
Home Theater

The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why

Apple announced numerous new products at its October 30 event, a lineup that included a new iPad Pro, a MacBook Air, as well as a new Mac Mini. Here are four reasons we wish a new set of AirPods were on that list.
Gaming

‘Fallout 76’ may have online multiplayer but it’s still a desolate wasteland

"Is Fallout 76 an MMO?" That depends on who you ask. Critics and players often cite its online multiplayer capabilities as a reason it qualifies. Yet calling the game an MMO only confuses matters, and takes away from what could make…