In Case You Missed It, Netflix DID Betray The Trust Of Net Neutrality Supporters

Recently Netflix drew the ire of the incumbent cable and broadband industry by admitting that the deteriorated service experienced by customers of certain ISPs actually came from their end, with the noble goal of helping folks not blow through data caps.  Like many supporters of Net Neutrality, I was taken aback by Netflix going to bat for consumers in the war against nickel-and-diming ISPs here in America, yet stomping on consumer choice via this little scheme of theirs.  I was thinking of ending my long-running Netflix subscription after several years, but for now I’ll check out Fuller House while mulling the possibility of dumping this service for good.

Despite The Consumerist running damage control on Netflix’s behalf, there is some betrayal that has taken place here with supporters of Net Neutrality.  Despite Netflix being an optional service versus a mandatory ISP, the whole point of Net Neutrality was that consumers should have their experiences online affected only by network conditions such as congestion, or issues that would have happened anyways.  Essentially despite many opponents of “net neutrality” supposedly supporting free markets, Net Neutrality essentially sets an electronics free market for web traffic as the standard for how things are run online.

Even if done for pro-consumer reasons, Netflix’s actions betray that very idea that we choose how we want to experience online content, with network limits caused by our activity being the only potential issue.  The entire Net Neutrality debate began because of the possibility of service providers screwing with our experiences behind our back, arbitrarily, and perhaps offering us the option of paying an “extra little fee” for them to start doing their job again.

The past 5 years, however, have shown that Netflix is not to be trusted.  The first and principal betrayal of consumer trust happened in 2011 when CEO Reed Hastings decided to split Netflix from being an all-in-one service into separate subscriptions for discs versus streaming.  Big surprise – the disc business has tanked since then and the streaming catalog has dwindled too.  Time and again you’ll feel like watching something on Netflix, go looking for it, and find out that you can subscribe to DVDs to actually see it, or pay a little more for Blu Ray.  Whether you think paying at least the equivalent of a World Of Warcraft subscription for a service that once was less than $10/month is worth it is up to you, but should be plainly obvious here that it probably isn’t, especially as their catalog continues to shrink.  😛

Netflix continues to not take hints from sites like YouTube, with even basic things like the ability to change quality while watching on the fly still not being part of the Netflix UI even though I called this out among other things back in 2012!!!  So they’re worried about bandwidth caps, yet you still have to back out of what you’re watching and go to your account settings pages just to change quality settings instead of just seeing what it looks like as you watch?!!

Netflix is a dog with fleas.  It was revolutionary at one point.  These days, however, Netflix is just waiting to essentially turn into an online equivalent of a TV channel with their recent hyper-obsession with original programming.  Despite their brand recognition, I see no future for the service as anything distinct from what it once sought to compete with.

This makes me wonder just when Google is going to get serious with YouTube Red.  Forget screwy ideas like scaring PewDiePie.  YouTube has the brand recognition, infrastructure, and most importantly – UI.  It could kill Netflix movie streaming if it offered a subscription option of its existing a la carte movie rentals option.  Seriously, what are they waiting for?  Amazon Prime is already making Netflix look a little dated these days.  Imagine YouTube having something resembling Netflix streaming for X dollars per month in lieu of the a la carte rentals they already have available on the site.

Netflix continues to exist on borrowed time.  I loathe but sadly look forward to the day when we’ll hear about a “Netflix channel” in a cable package, because I know it’s coming.  Let this current deterioration of service and emphasis on original content continue, and I’m sure within 5 years tops the “Netflix” of the 2020s will bear little if any resemblance to what we’ve known them for in this past decade.


Sissychowski’s Going Away – FINALLY!!!

From FreePress, apparently FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is calling it a career there.  Hmmm….  Wonder if he’s going to do the revolving door thing and end up as a telecom lobbyist.  😛

This day couldn’t have come soon enough.  This guy is an embarrassment to the world of technology.  A complete and total bobble-headed blubber-spined shill for the runaway telecommunications companies that have hijacked American broadband and sunk us in the world rankings for infrastructure, bang-for-buck, and quality of service.

The Sissychowski Era as I should probably call it saw horrendously watered-down laws about Net Neutrality all-but destroy the concept in our government, allowing ISPs to suck every last nickel and dime out of people’s nearly-empty pockets during the Great Recession and jacking up the price of broadband even as ISPs’ costs of delivering it plummeted.  This also was the era where Meredith Turncoat Baker took the offensive in ramming through the NBC-Comcast-Universal merger then stepped down to become a mucho-lobbyist at Comcast.  Revolving door anyone?  😛

This pathetic excuse for an FCC under Genachowski has been one of the big reasons why I haven’t taken the Obama Administration seriously on hardly anything, along with Steven “$8/Gallon Gas By Any Means Necessary” Chu at the Department of Energy.  Now that both are on their way out let’s just hope that the successors have some actual gray matter in their heads that they’ll actually want to use to actually do their jobs well, instead of stuff like the FCC chair kissing up to the regulated and attending posh get-together parties….errr…. industry conferences.  😛

Today, American Broadband continues to languish and become unaffordable, while companies nickel-and-dime people with either bundle nonsense or smartphone kerfuffles, at least when they’re not trying to gain the legal precedent and authorization to abandon things like DSL, reliable wired phone networks and broadband, etc.  The new FCC chairman should be nothing short of a hardliner on these issues.  If the Obama Administration can find someone who fits that role, I might actually have some respect for this administration for the first time ever.

It’s not like the Democrats can’t do it either.  They found a way to send Senator Elizabeth Warren to the Beltway.  Now we just need someone like that in charge of the FCC so consumers can at least pretend to appreciate regulatory agencies instead of having lawmakers sabotage and de-fund them then have Libertarian attack dogs jump all over what’s left going, “See?  Government sucks at everything!!!  Just shrink the government!!!”  😛

The American Consumer has put up with the whole Tele-Con thing long enough.  Hopefully the President appoints someone that people can actually respect this time around instead of setting Washington up for more revolving-door scandals.  One can only hope.  It’d be nice to see some sanity restored to the oversight of this foundational technology of the Information Age.

For more stories on this type of stuff, I recommend  🙂

Regarding The Passing Of Aaron Swartz

As a testament of how much my job has been running me into the ground over the past several months, my recent appearance on Out Of Continues Episode 59, as much of a technical mess as it was, was where I found out about what happened to Aaron Swartz, a very passionate technologist and outspoken advocate for internet and information freedom who took his own life earlier this month.  I never really ran in too many of his types of circles techwise, but the minute I found out about his ties to RSS, that was something to tip my hat about.  RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, was one of those things that revolutionized the Internet by allowing for so many things that have made the Internet into a successful form of mainstream entertainment, such as podcasting, vidcasting, blogging, etc., to work.

For those who aren’t all that geeky, what RSS does (and this blog has an RSS feed) is allow you to use an RSS reader to subscribe to stuff, which flips the traditional model of the World Wide Web in reverse and makes things much easier.  In the early days of the web, you had to know what you wanted and know where to look to find the information you were looking for, usually accompanied with a ton of long page loads because things were via dialup back then.  🙂  I vividly remember those bad old days of trying to look online for stuff on my high school library’s clunky old computer with its 28.8k modem (not even 56k lol) that kept cutting me off with no message whatsoever so suddenly my Netscape Navigator web browser would just stop working (yeah – that long ago lol) and I’d think the Internet had broke.  😀

Search engines such as Google helped change that a bit but you still had to know what to search for, so the process still began with you, plus you had to know how to Google really well to get decent results.  RSS on the other hand finished that switch by allowing people to subscribe to stuff online and then have the option of having stuff delivered to them instead of having to go look for it every single time, so with news for example if I really liked XYZ News reports I could subscribe to their RSS and see the stories every time I opened my RSS reader instead of having to constantly go to their website and see if there were any new stories.

This alone gives me reason to tip my hat to the late Mr. Swartz, but his defense of internet and information freedom only multiply that several times over.  He was a big defender of things like Net Neutrality, opponent of things like SOPA and PIPA with their “chew the meat spit the bones” style of combining internet-crushing regulation with noble-sounding ideas like protecting US trade secrets.  So what happened to him?  Here’s Hak.5’s report on it.

What we had here was grey area on both sides.  Was what Aaron did with JSTOR right?  Was what the government did in response the right thing to do?   Depends on who you are in both cases.  One thing that I hope everyone can agree on though is that there is a war on to crush the freedom of information even in this so-called “Information Age.”  Our schools are infected with these philosophies and worldviews today that discourage critical thinking and thinking for oneself and even the concept of objective information, rights/wrongs, etc., instead focusing far too much on people’s subjective internal feelings and expression, until of course someone breaks a law and gets arrested, at which point their own feelings on whether certain “wrong stuff” is right goes completely out the window.  😛  We have legions of people, including politicians and other people who can vote on things, who don’t think for themself and can’t even debate a simple point.  Meanwhile also in society today are legions of lobbyists, other politicians, people with money, etc., who seek to take advantage of the aforementioned folks who don’t think for themselves or can’t articulate a point in civil debate to twist things in their favor.  …and in the middle of this?  Information – and its freedom – constantly in the crossfire.

I mentioned on Out Of Continues that if the state of internet and information freedom contributed to Swartz’s suicide I can see why.  Broadband, after a decade of progress going from dialup to broadband and limited to unlimited access is now under siege from power-hungry and money-hungry interests all over the place who want to limit what information can be seen online while squeezing every last penny out of people’s already near-empty pockets.  It’s almost like these people want this decade to undo the last decade or two and bring us back to the bad old days.  Will anyone stop them?  Depends on how many people out there know what’s really going on versus the bobbleheads who don’t think for themselves who get fleeced and patronized by the people causing all of these problems.  In any event though, with how things are today, if Swartz was in any way further depressed by this sort of stuff it’s rather easy to see why.

The only hope that any geek can have right now is that this man’s death won’t be in vain, and that the discussion of the old saying, “Information longs to be free” will fire up even more following these events.  =(

“Libertarians” And Net Neutrality – Here We Go Again :-P

I once had some respect for the Libertarian movement here in the United States.  In a day and age where various assorted organizations stomp on individuals every chance they get, a group advocating for individual rights and freedoms is very much needed in this country, but ever since the whole Net Neutrality debate started up several years ago it looks like this “support of individuals” has eroded more and more.  Nowadays when I hear a so-called Libertarian I don’t know if they really give a darn about individuals or they’re merely exploiting the “less government” rhetoric as an astroturf paid-off representative of some organization who’s trying to get the government off their back.  :-\

From Ars Technica, apparently “Libertarian” groups are trying yet again to take shots at Net Neutrality in this country, the latest move being an attempt to get it deemed unconstitutional.  😛

Unfortunately, as usual, Libertarians wind up with egg on their face in the whole Net Neutrality debate, because Net Neutrality is one of those cases where someone who supposedly hates “Big Government” and supports “individual freedom” has to choose between one of the two here, and the fact that they keep leaning away from individual freedom towards simply hating “Big Government” only makes them look even more like naive ignoramuses.  Now add to that the ongoing problem I see among Libertarians and even some Conservatives of having to ignore reality in the name of defending rhetoric and you have a pretty ugly situation on your hands.  :-\

Yeah, I get it.  Government is Force.  The proper office and scope of civil government is to make proper use of force to maintain the rule of law in this country.  Because force is what government’s essentially best at, said force should be reserved only for situations where it’s actually needed, but is Net Neutrality really a “government solution looking for a problem” as some have put it?  I’ll let this entire blog just on this sort of stuff speak for itself.  😛

The answer is: Of course not!  Net Neutrality is a completely valid response to an industry that’s utterly drunk off of monopolist Kool-Aid.  :-\  To ignore the constant anti-consumer anti-technology ANTI-INDIVIDUAL antics of these organizations is to take shots at being the world’s biggest ostrich with one’s head in the sand.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening here.  Until these Libertarian organizations can firmly cement that it’s all about individuals here they will continue to run into problems like this and the official Libertarian Party in this country can look forward to still more decades of barely winning more than municipal elections if any at all.

I remember Michael Badnarik running for president as a Libertarian in 2004 who had what was quite possibly one of the simplest explanations for a political stance that I’ve ever seen.  He opposed banning gay marriage because, “Individuals have rights.  Gays are individuals.  Case Closed.”  Not everyone’s going to agree with him on that of course but you have to admire the simplicity of that argument.  I could then say in regards to Net Neutrality being a “free speech” issue for organizations, “Individuals have rights.  Organizations aren’t individuals.  Case Closed.”

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen here, things aren’t always kept that simple.  :-\

Darn, and here I was thinking Net Neutrality was largely a mid-2000s argument, but since it’s still going on and apparently isn’t going to be a dead issue anytime soon, I think I’ll add Net Neutrality as a post category.