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This morning the Federal Communications Commission voted, along party lines, to kill net neutrality—the rules that have, until now, ensured an internet in which service providers were forbidden from giving preferential treatment to certain sites and services. While telecom companies are vowing that consumers won't get screwed over by this, it's safe to say that's a lie—there's a reason these giant companies have been pushing for the end of net neutrality for years, and that reason is they can now squeeze a lot more money out of us.
What's this mean for you? Probably nothing in the short term—Comcast and other, equally hated telecom companies will be canny enough to let the heat die down a bit on this enormously unpopular decision. But going forward, it's safe to expect some streaming services to be notably cheaper and faster than others—telecoms will price their own services lower than their competitors', and make them faster, too—and that accessing certain parts of the internet, whether those parts deliver news or porn, will likely cost you more. (Depending on just how shitty streaming gets, physical media like DVDs and Blu-rays might make a comeback—good thing we've got Movie Madness.) And with entrenched tech corporations now having a huge financial advantage over tech start-ups, we can expect a lot less innovation: Smaller and independent start-ups simply won't be able to compete with the larger companies that now have a stranglehold on the information and applications that determine our day-to-day lives.
Critics of the changes say consumers may have more difficulty finding content online and that start-ups will have to pay to reach consumers. In the last week, there have been hundreds of protests across the country, and many websites have encouraged users to speak up against the repeal. Some groups have said they planned to file a lawsuit challenging the change.
“I dissent, because I am among the millions outraged,” said Mignon Clyburn, one of the two Democratic commissioners who voted against the action. “Outraged, because the F.C.C. pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers.” (Via.)
The coolest thing about all of this is how Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed chairman of the F.C.C., straight-up ignored Americans' massive outpouring of support for net neutrality. He's a busy guy! He's got more important concerns.
AND TODAY KEEPS GETTING BETTER! Also this morning, the Walt Disney Company announced its plan to buy a massive chunk of 21st Century Fox's film and TV empire. Disney already basically has a monopoly when it comes to mainstream TV and film—in addition to their Disney-branded products, they own Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN, ABC, a big chunk of Hulu, and more—and should their $52.4 billion deal be approved by our totally trustworthy government regulators (see above), Disney will soon have more. A lot more.
Walt Disney Co. said Thursday it agreed to buy most of 21st Century Fox Inc. for $52.4 billion in stock, in a deal that would give Disney a dominant position in movies and sports and help bolster its flagging television business as it prepares to directly challenge digital giants like Netflix Inc.
Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said on a call with investors Thursday that the biggest acquisition in his company’s history will benefit it by adding new film- and TV-production capabilities, plus franchises including Fox’s Avatar and the X-Men; expanding Disney’s comparatively weak international television presence; and advancing his goal of building direct relationships with consumers through majority control of streaming service Hulu and the satellite services Sky in Europe and Star in India. (Via.)
A ton of the discussion online is about how this merger would affect Disney and Fox's popular franchises—like smooshing together the Fox-owned X-Men movies with the Disney-owned Avengers movies. While Fox's properties, from The Simpsons to the upcoming Avatar sequels, are huge, they also have a less-heralded, artier division: Fox Searchlight, which, as one of the few remaining "arthouse" arms of a major studio, takes chances on things like The Shape of Water. Given Disney's past practices, it's just about impossible to imagine them keeping Fox Searchlight around. Who needs The Shape of Water when you've got Wolverine Meets Spider-Man?
But there's a far bigger issue here: A purchase like this consolidates control of news and entertainment in even fewer hands, which is never a good thing for consumers or democracy. One could make a strong case that Fox News shares a significant responsibility for our current geo-political nightmare—and with Fox ruler Rupert Murdoch planning to retain ownership of the Fox News Channel, that means Fox News could get a massive infusion into their war chest that will keep it going far into the future. Seeing Wolverine team up with Spider-Man would be fun! Might be a little less fun, though, knowing that the way it happened was by giving Fox News $52.4 billion to keep doing exactly what it's been doing.