Back in 2012, many people in the Anime Blogosphere protested against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP because it would have ended the Internet as we know it. These two bills eventually caused so much backlash that Congress had to shelve it.
In January of this year, the Supreme Court has shot down FCC’s Net Neutrality rules, which would have protected the free Internet. Just a few days ago, the FCC has decided that they are not going to keep it, thus effectively killing Net Neutrality.
I know that most Anime fans won’t care about this for the fact that he or she might not know what all of this means and/or just want to watch Anime and interact with the community. However, ignoring this will eventually lead to a rude awakening as it can adversely affect legal streaming sites, Anime related blogs, etc., which is why I wanted to share my thoughts about the whole issue.
What is Net Neutrality and why it’s important?
In layman’s term, Net Neutrality is a principle that all Internet service providers have to treat all traffic equally, meaning that they cannot discriminate, censor, block, slow down or charge more by the user or type of content.
So, why is this important for the free and open Internet? It’s simple! Service providers have to treat all content sent over the Internet equally, which in turn allows us to freely express ourselves within a reasonable means. This also means that a provider like a cable company cannot block or slow down traffic to a service that they are competing with such as Netflix. Without Net Neutrality, providers will have the power to discriminate traffic (aka censor/block/slow down websites that has content ISPs/companies don’t like), charge customers even more for internet access and create a tiered system where companies have to pay more in order to get into the fast lane, which in turn will severely impact innovation. In other words, an Internet without net neutrality is a lose-lose situation for the average consumer like us, thus creating a closed Internet.
Why Net Neutrality is dead?
In January 14th of this year, Verizon took the FCC to the US Court of Appeals to challenge their net neutrality rules so that they can allow sites to pay them in order to have a faster connection while being able to block some traffic. Eventually, the court ruled in their flavor, thus weakening the fundamental aspect of Net Neutrality that service providers cannot discriminate any type of traffic. Since Net Neutrality is not a law, the FCC had to go back to the drawing board.
Just recently, the FCC revealed some new Net Neutrality rules (which in reality, it does absolutely nothing to save it). Under the new rules, service providers cannot block or discriminate against certain websites. However, they can have certain sites and services pay for preferential treatment. In other words, Net Neutrality is essentially dead for the fact that service providers can now charge more if a company wants a fast connection with them while those who can’t afford it will get suck in the slow lane.
How will the lack of Net Neutrality impact legal streaming sites, Anime related websites, etc?
While I don’t see an issue with Anime blogs, forums and website for the fact that hosting them is not bandwidth intensive, I see a potential issue with legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll, Daisuki, Funimation, etc. under these new rules for the fact that these sites don’t have nearly as much money compared to Netflix to pay a service provider like Comcast or Optimum to get into the fast lane. Therefore, a stream of a single episode of Nisekoi on Crunchyroll in 720p might be degraded because of this.
For instance, some people who are subscribing to Crunchyroll might start complaining about the poor playback with their Internet connection. In response, Crunchyroll might decide pay a service provider like Optimum (Cablevision) to have a peering agreement so that they can get into the fast lane. Of course, this also means that the monthly subscription fee for Crunchyroll Premium might rise from $6.95 to $10.95 just to cover the cost of the service provider’s agreement. To make matters worse, the agreement will only cover just one Internet Provider, meaning that people who are on different providers besides Optimum such as Comcast or AT&T will still have a poor experience until Crunchyroll forms agreements with them too.
So, what about smaller or start-up legal streaming sites like Daisuki and Anime Sols? While animation studios/users usually back most of these smaller streaming sites, these sites and startups will have a harder time since they won’t be able to afford a peering agreement with an ISP. As a result, they might start charging for a subscription just to watch anything or cease to exist.
Why should I care about the lack of Net Neutrality? I only care about Anime!
I think everyone should worry about the lack of Net Neutrality for the fact that it can severely affect how we use the Internet to communicate with the fandom and even watch episodes legally online. We have to realize that companies that stream Anime legally don’t nearly have as much money compared to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other media companies that can afford these agreements with service providers. Furthermore, subscriptions to legal streaming sites can get even more expensive if Net Neutrality is not preserved as these sites will be forced to make these agreements with other service providers In order to give their subscribers the best experience possible. Not to mention, access to fansubs for shows that are not being legally streamed at all can be severely limited, meaning that only a few people (at least in America) will be able to watch them.
Like with SOPA and PIPA, people need to fight to keep Net Neutrality alive not just so that people can continue to watch Anime though legal streaming and fan subs, but to preserve the free Internet. Without the free Internet, the Anime fandom would not be as big as it is today.
With that, what are your concerns about the lack of Net Neutrality and access to Legal Streaming and fansubs? Feel free to share them.
Update: Yes, Net Neutrality will die on December 14, 2017 if Ajit Pai have his way
If you are in the United States, I highly urge you to contact the FCC or your congressman about going against the decision of destroying net neutrality and protect the open and free internet. You can find out how to by going to Battle For The Net
Update 2: Sadly, Ajit Pai got his way and killed Net Neutrality, but the battle is not over
If you reside in the United States, I urge you to contact your congressional representatives urging them to protect Net Neutrality and overrule the FCC’s decision. You can do this at Battle For The Net.