Here we are, fighting the net neutrality fight again. The battle lines are drawn and basically everyone is right where they were the last time we did this, back in 2014 and 2015, with one key player missing from the debate: Netflix. The streaming video service that once defiantly asked why ISPs weren’t paying it extra for making their service worthwhile is absent this time around. Why? According to its CEO, Netflix just doesn’t need to care as much anymore.
Speaking at Recode’s Code Conference today, Netflix CEO, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings pretty much said his company is too big to stress about net neutrality anymore, and passed the torch to the next generation of businesses.
“Neutrality is really important for the Netflix of ten years ago, and it’s important for society, it’s important for innovation, it’s important for entrepreneurs,” Hastings told moderator Peter Kafka.
“So, in that sense, it is really important. And, you know, we’re weighing in against [reversing] it — we’ve said we think neutrality’s very important.”
“But,” Kafka noted, “You’re not as loud, you’re not yelling about it on Facebook, you’re not…”
“That’s fair,” Hastings admitted. “It’s not our primary battle at this point. Other people it is, and that’s an important thing, and we’re supportive through the industry association, but I think you’re right that we don’t have the special vulnerability to it” anymore.
Instead, he told Recode, it’s someone else’s problem now.
“We had to carry the water when we were growing up and we were small,” said Hastings. “Now other companies need to be on that leading edge.”
Handing over the fight to other companies is a bit of a turn for Hastings, who in past years has been extremely outspoken about net neutrality and internet service provider behavior.
Back in 2014, for example, he said Comcast — then still trying to merge with Time Warner Cable — was “coming for the whole internet.”
That came, probably not coincidentally, just a few months after Netflix had to cough up cash to Comcast to get the cable behemoth to deliver Netflix’s video content to customers without letting it bottleneck and slow.
However, Netflix also proved happy to take advantage of zero-rating deals where possible, paying off providers for access to otherwise data-capped customers. And it’s now pretty buddy-buddy with Comcast, which is letting customers access and pay for Netflix services through its X1 set-top box just like any other premium channel.
Netflix was among the companies represented by the Internet Association when it asked the FCC to leave net neutrality well enough alone already early in May. But that doesn’t really matter, Hastings said, telling Kafka, “I think Trump’s FCC is going to unwind the rules no matter what anybody says.”
But since Hastings is hanging the responsibility on everyone else to object, well, here’s your turn. If you’ve got thoughts about the FCC’s plan to reverse net neutrality, and you haven’t told the FCC what you think yet, here’s how.