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Netflix’s ‘meh’ on net neutrality is exactly why we need strong rules, not empty promises

Published Jun 1st, 2017 7:21PM EDT

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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.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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