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.

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.
Movies & TV

NBCUniversal will launch its own streaming service in 2020

NBCU is prepping a streaming service filled with its original content for a debut sometime next year, meaning that Michael, Dwight, and the rest of the Scranton crew might be moving to a new home.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Home Theater

Not chill: Netflix is hiking prices across all its tiers

Netflix has to get the billions of dollars it's spending on new content from somewhere. The streaming giant announced price hikes across the board, raising its monthly rates between $1 and $2 per tier in the next few months.
Movies & TV

How much does Netflix cost? Here’s a pricing breakdown of its plans

Wondering how much a Netflix subscription costs? You're not the only one. That's why we put together a quick-hit guide covering all the Netflix plans, whether you want to opt for 4K streaming or a disc-based option.
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…
Digital Trends Live

Microsoft has #*!@ed up to-do lists on an epic scale

Microsoft has mucked up to-do lists on a scale you simply can’t imagine, a failure that spans multiple products and teams, like a lil’ bit of salmonella that contaminates the entire output from a factory.
Opinion

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?
Gaming

Throw out the sandbox. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is a fully realized western world

Despite featuring around 100 story missions, the real destination in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the journey you make for yourself in the Rockstar's open world, and the game is better for it.
Gaming

‘Diablo Immortal’ is just the beginning. Mobile games are the future

Diablo fans were furious about Diablo Immortal, but in truth, mobile games are the future. From Apple and Samsung to Bethesda and Blizzard, we’re seeing a new incentive for games that fit on your phone.
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Music

Brian Eno sets out to change music (again) with Bloom: 10 World

We always felt that Bloom was a musical system that could be developed further -- it was as if we’d built a CD player and only ever released one CD. For this release, we’ve created ten new worlds, starting with a reimagined version of…
Computing

Can two operating systems coexist? The Pixel Slate thinks so

The Pixel Slate is a 2-in-1 device like no other. It’s not the most polished product we’ve ever used, but Google has laid the foundation for letting mobile and desktop software live side-by-side in peace.
Android

Why commercials in Android Auto could turn your dashboard into a dumpster fire

Google announced some tweaks to the Android Auto experience, focused on making messaging and media easier, but I worry about the future of the platform. For better or worse, there’s a real chance our dashboards could turn into dumpster…