A topic that we’re seeing all over social media and tech sites is Net Neutrality. Most of the discussion has focused on Netflix, and other streaming TV/Movie content providers and how they affect the cable companies on-demand services. But all content on the web is competing for your attention, regardless of whether you watch, listen, or play something, they’re all varying forms of entertainment. And every advertiser wants to be the one to be showcased while you’re absorbing whatever form of entertainment you prefer. If a company like Comcast deems that the downloading of podcasts affects how advertisers dole out money to them, we could see Net Neutrality seriously impact how the majority of us podcast.
Imagine a service like Podcast One, which is huge, and has a lot of big name shows on their network, working out a deal for millions to be allowed to offer their shows to Comcast clients, unencumbered, and free from any sort of throttling. Where does a little guy like me, who is ultimately a small potatoes indie podcaster supposed to do? Pay up or have an episode stream so choppy, or download so slow that it is so unlistenable that people lose interest, and look elsewhere? Could we potentially see hosting companies affected, to the point where you can’t have a site or show hosted on any hosting provider that hasn’t cut a deal with the big ISPs? Imagine being forced to have to work with one company to host your site, because if you don’t, you can’t provide your show to a large portion of your audience. What about services like Spreaker, Soundcloud, PodBean, LibSyn or Blubrry? iHeartRadio, formerly Clear Chanel helped destroy terrestrial radio, they’re closely associated to Spreaker, imagine they form an alliance with AT&T or Comcast, and are the preferred podcasting service of either, jacking their prices up to the point where a lot of us independent podcasters no longer have the option to use their services. I may be putting the cart before the horse here, but it is frightening to think that the little guy is going to get squeezed once more, and podcasting, like so many things before it is ruined when large corporations are the only ones able to provide decent content that doesn’t take a day and a half to download or cost thousands to offer. And sure, you’ll continue to get your Adam Carollas and Eddie Trunks, and Mark Marons of the world, there is no doubt about that, but given all of the speculation, you may have to purchase a specific content package, much like you currently do with your cable, in order to enjoy podcasts in the same fashion that up until now you listened to for free.
What about streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music? Spotify may have to kiss their free service goodbye in order to pay ISPs to not throttle their app. And it will go beyond that, YouTube, watching news on the internet, etc. again any form of streaming content will potentially be affected. And it isn’t as if you have an option, in a lot of places you only have a single option for obtaining internet service. It isn’t as if the majority of people can say forget you guys, I’ll go with the competition. The big ISPs are all sort of on the same side too, for now, and maybe one of them could change their stance to garner business, but it is highly unlikely, as they’re fighting to keep their current stranglehold.
How do the record labels and Hollywood get involved? Could they use this as a way to monitor illegal downloads, and get compensated somehow in the process? It was long rumored that ISPs would turn over the records of those downloading to both entities, and have people pay a tax pertaining to the content they had downloaded illegally. ISPs can monitor this, regardless if you’re running a VPN or not. Could that be a way for both industries to recoup, or help the sale of physical albums or movies?
One bright spot is if the next administration comes in and determines that they want to change the rules again, they can. But let’s be honest, look at the government’s track record, before WWII state colleges and universities were free to those that stayed in state. That stopped to help fund the war and was supposed to revert back after. Same deal with most of the pay roadways, but neither has reverted back as originally planned. We’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out.