Here Is The Most Misleading Video You’re Likely To See About Net Neutrality

While the President’s decision to come out in favor of net neutrality has helped to bring the topic to the forefront, it’s also had the unfortunate consequence of politicizing an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with party lines. This has resulted in a slew of overwrought, exaggerated, and misinformed reactions from certain political leaders and groups, none more so than this ridiculously misleading video.

In the above clip from a group called FreedomWorks, communications coordinator Iris Somberg makes a handful of statements that simply aren’t true about net neutrality.

“Supporters of the plan call it a [uses finger quotes] ‘free and open Internet’ but in reality it’s anything but,” says Somberg. “What net neutrality does is force providers to treat all Web content equally — the same speeds, the same prices, the same access.”

This is simply untrue.

Net neutrality merely says that ISPs can’t slow down, block, or prioritize any content. It doesn’t mean that everything gets treated with the same speed — just that an ISP does nothing to impede or boost any particular content company’s speed. So if it’s fast coming in from the company, it should be fast going out to the end-user. And if the host is slow, then it remains slow.

And we don’t know what Somberg means by the “same prices,” as it’s consumers who foot the bill for broadband service from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, etc., to carry data that “last mile” to our homes. And we pay for that data to be delivered at the same speed that it gets sent out to us.

There’s this widely held myth that companies like Netflix and Google are getting some sort of free ride on the back of cable companies, but these large content providers pay huge amounts of money to third-party bandwidth providers to carry their data to these ISPs.

So is FreedomWorks suggesting that we, the consumers, should pay more if we use Netflix or Amazon Prime or enjoy looking at YouTube?

“Netflix is not the same as a high school blog, and YouTube certainly isn’t the same as Facebook,” continues Somberg. “They serve very different purposes and have very different needs.”

Exactly, which is why it costs absolutely nothing to host and run a “high school blog” (whatever that is) while it costs billions to run Netflix. And yes, YouTube does have very different needs than Facebook, but those needs are all taken care of by the companies on the back end, in terms of staffing, serving, and bandwidth. All these companies need — and all net neutrality asks — is that ISPs deliver data at the speed at which it receives it.

So if that precocious high school blogger gets a national media hit, ISPs aren’t suddenly required to provide better service or deliver her page at the same speed as data coming in from Netflix.

“By dictating that all these sites be treated the same, net neutrality makes small companies that don’t take up much bandwidth at all pay more so that big companies can pay less,” continues the video, again making the fallacious argument that net neutrality requires an ISP to provide all sites at maximum speed and quality.

“Net neutrality is not a level playing field,” concludes the video. “It’s an anticompetitive policy that protects the Internet’s biggest companies at the expense of everyone else.”

Again — neutrality is all about telling ISPs to let data come and go at whatever speed it arrives at their doors, and regardless of who is sending it.

Neutrality does not inherently benefit larger companies. In fact, both large and small content providers may be hurt without neutrality.

Without a neutral Internet, so-called edge providers — companies like Netflix and YouTube that are responsible for a large portion of the data going downstream at any given moment — could have their entire businesses held for ransom by ISPs.

If an ISP is allowed to block or slow down content, why would it not use that leverage to compel the Netflixes of the Internet to pay more to get speeds back up to normal? In fact, many ISPs have already done this with Netflix, allowing data to bottleneck at the points where Netflix’s bandwidth providers connect to the ISPs’ networks. Netflix speeds slowed so much on Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable that the company had two choices — pay for better access or risk losing their business.

And by the way, that sort of “paid peering” arrangement is currently outside the scope of any pending net neutrality rules.

Meanwhile, small businesses are the ones more likely to be harmed by a lack of net neutrality.

If ISPs can, as the currently pending rules allow, make deals for “paid prioritization” with edge providers, then deep-pocketed companies like Google and Netflix will almost certainly step up to pay for improved access to consumers. Meanwhile, all those startups and small companies trying to compete won’t be able to afford the toll put in place by the ISPs.

In fact, the only companies guaranteed to benefit from a lack of neutrality are the ISPs, who will be able to extort money from content companies large and small for merely providing that last mile of broadband service.

Don’t be fooled — net neutrality is not about Republicans or Democrats, or about Netflix vs. your high school blog.

It’s about ensuring that ISPs do what we pay them to do — deliver data at the speed it’s sent out.

If you want a video from someone who understands net neutrality, you can always watch this NSFW John Oliver clip:

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