In a move that shocked no one, a United States appeals court hammered the final nail into net neutrality’s coffin last week. Also not particularly shocking was the revelation that the government regulators responsible for killing net neutrality are now high-paid cable industry lobbyists. That’s Washington for you. What might come as something of a surprise, however, is that the biggest hope of preventing Internet service providers from destroying the Web as we know it today may in fact be Netflix.
Netflix reported its fourth-quarter earnings results on Wednesday afternoon, stating that it added 2.33 million new domestic subscribers during the quarter. More than 40 million Americans, or about 12% of the total U.S. population, now subscribe to Netflix’s service.
Alongside its results, the company said that if ISPs in the U.S. do decide to violate net neutrality’s principles by “legally impeding the video streams” delivered to Netflix subscribers, Netflix will provoke its massive customer base and urge it to rally against the offending ISPs. In other words, any ISPs that thought they might be able to milk Netflix for some cash in order to prioritize its video streams, which account for about one-third of all U.S. Internet traffic by some estimates, were wrong.
As Forbes contributor Seth Porges points out, Netflix may in fact be the only company capable of not only making the general public aware of net neutrality, but also getting enough users upset about the downsides if ISPs do decide to take advantage of the system and give priority bandwidth to some services while impeding others.
Netflix did state that it doesn’t think a call to arms will be necessary though, and it sees itself as an ally to ISPs rather than an enemy.