Neutralizing the Net: As the Internet party ends, it’s time to save your pennies for video streaming

By on December 6, 2017


Have you started asking yourself how you’ll prioritize your internet budget once Net Neutrality is dead?
(Photo by Theodor Moise)

It’s easy to know when moments are special. The kiss you’ve longed for, unwrapping the perfect gift, the right song bringing a tear to your eye … special moments stir something deep inside us that we can’t ignore. We’re very good at appreciating what’s right in front of us. What we’re less good at is appreciating when the state of things around us is good.

If you’re left-leaning, 2017 has most likely been a reckoning for how you’ve viewed the world. How many times have you read on Twitter someone feeling like they’re living in a broken form of reality? There is not enough time nor words in this paper to talk about the general society weirdness of the year.

And now comes the battle over net neutrality, and if you’re just now realizing how scary things could be for your internet usage in the future, welcome to the party. Not to sound smarter than you, but I’ve long known that we’re living in the golden age of the internet and that it was only a matter of time before the good times would come to an end.

Babies being born right now won’t realize how good their parents had it. Sure, there was a time when getting online meant floppy discs found at Target and hoping that no one picked up the phone while were messing around online. But it got better, and pretty quickly too.

Just think about all the wonders you’ve been taking for granted. From the wild days of illegal mp3 downloading to playing video games with strangers across the world to porn without having to go into that weird room behind the curtain at the video store to not having to go to the mall to shop to being able to hand your kid a tablet with Netflix installed so that you can get a few hours of quiet, a free and open internet has made your life better in countless ways.

The good times couldn’t last forever. That’s not how capitalism works. The people in charge of the technology that has changed your life are in the business of making money, not making sure little Bobby doesn’t break anything in the waiting room. There’s gold in them digital hills, and by god they’re going to mine it. We, as always, will have no say in the matter.

Have you started asking yourself how you’ll prioritize your internet budget once Net Neutrality is dead? I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money, but this might be just what you need to take that long-needed vacation from social media you keep promising yourself. ISPs are going to make so much cash in the future by letting people buy “access to [site type]” gift cards. Just you wait and see.

Me, I’m going all in on video streaming. Sure, the rest of the internet is important for sure, but of all the things it does for me, I find the most value in the near limitless options of entertainment provided by streaming video.

To pick one example out of many, really think about what Netflix does for a moment. Off the top of my head, this one, still reasonably priced service: allows us to binge watch shows without having to sit through commercials; lets us feast on our favorite TV comfort foods; is making the stand-up comedy special meaningful again; brings indie films to people who don’t live in cool cities; allows Americans to watch programming they’d otherwise miss from around the world; and it’s an excellent babysitter that you won’t have to worry about seducing your partner. It’s not magic, but it’s close.

And that’s just one of many services out there. Hulu and Amazon are both contenders to Netflix, but if you look past the giants there’s a whole world of cool stuff out there that more than justifies cutting the cable cord. You’ve got Shudder providing horror viewing that used to be damn near impossible to find in the States. The WWE Network and are revolutionizing how we view professional wrestling. The Great Courses can expand your mind and there are plenty of options if you’re looking to reduce your body. Once you get your time machine built, go back 10 years and tell people they’ll be able to watch HBO without a pricey cable TV subscription package and watch their brain leak out of their ears.

Change is coming, you can be sure of that. But until the day comes that we’re paying pennies so we can get our tweets out, let us enjoy the fall. That’s what this column is going to do at least. Streaming is wonderful, and I’m going to poke at all corners. Join me: You know there’s nothing good on TV anyway. PJH


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