Once a vocal champion of strong net neutrality principles, Reed Hastings now believes that Netflix is so big that it can get the deals it desires regardless of what Trump’s FCC does with net neutrality. The CEO’s recent statements make a great case as to why net neutrality is important.
Gone are the days when Hastings would openly debate ISPs in defense of net neutrality. That doesn’t mean his views have changed — it’s just that Netflix is now an internet giant, which gives it leverage when negotiating deals with ISPs. That’s exactly the kind of behavior that, if abused, could make life difficult for competitors. Hastings did say that net neutrality is still very important for the “the Netflix of 10 years ago.”
“It’s not our primary battle at this point,” Hastings said on Wednesday about net neutrality during an interview at Recode’s Code Conference. “We think net neutrality is incredibly important,” Netflix said, but “not narrowly important to us because we’re big enough to get the deals we want.”
Other internet giants are probably thinking the same thing. But strong net neutrality rules would prevent them and ISPs from abusing their positions. Netflix is one of the many streaming companies that benefit from T-Mobile’s Binge On feature, which was often criticized for violating net neutrality.
For its part, Netflix still says that it’s very much active in the fight for a strong, open internet. It’s just that it’s not at the forefront of the battle. “We had to carry the water when we were growing up, and we were small,” the CEO said, “and now other companies need to be on that leading edge.” He also said that “Trump’s FCC is going to unwind the rules no matter what anybody says.”
The Trump-era FCC, led by new Commissioner Ajit Pai, proposes to remove the Title II classification for ISPs, which would prevent the FCC from enforcing any net neutrality rules. Instead, Pai proposes a “voluntary” agreement to uphold the spirit of net neutrality. In case you’re wondering, that has zero chance of working.