Twitter Scores a Touchdown, but Net Neutrality Keeps ISPs at the 20-Yard Line

by Mike Wendy on December 11, 2016

Did you watch the Raiders-Chiefs game on Twitter on Thursday night? Sure, it was available on TV and via other paid online venues. But, if you can’t get over-the-air TV, or don’t pay for online NFL games, Twitter got it to you – likely on your convenient smartphone – with a great picture, and for free.

Thank you, Twitter, for sponsoring some awesome content!

Twitter paid the NFL $10 million for the rights to show 10 games on its platform. The company doesn’t expect to generate much direct revenue from the offering, but looks to benefit indirectly by it helping to recruit and retain members to / in its service. It’s essentially a loss-leader to get and keep people in the door “shopping.”

Of course, sponsored “whatever” is a tool used to differentiate offerings and attract users throughout the economy. Over-the-air TV is itself an excellent example: The networks buy exclusive programming and then give it away free to viewers, attracting eyeballs for advertisers who then pay the networks for access to those viewers.

Twitter is competing in a complex space with an innovative take on how to grow its audience, working to make its mousetrap better and more profitable. U.S. ISPs would like to be similarly discriminatory in their approach to attracting and serving their customers, but the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules have imposed numerous obstacles to that perennially difficult task. Priority delivery and “fast lanes” are no-no’s for ISPs. Popular zero-rated offerings, too, have come under the glare of the FCC of late, with the agency demanding that providers “explain” how they don’t harm competitors. For this Commission, the goalposts have never been set in concrete, they being easily moved at the behest of Silicon Valley.

ISPs and their potential partners want to sponsor the content / data pouring over networks to give consumers what they want. Oh, and to make a profit, too. Weird how those two things often go together. Is that still legal? One hopes.

Arbitrary rules and ever-moving goalposts rig the game and, ultimately, harm consumers.  The next FCC must allow ISPs to advance past the 20-yard line so they can make it to the end zone just like Twitter has.

Mike Wendy December 12, 2016 at 4:02 pm

It could be zero-rated, working with an ISP – provided also that the FCC were cool with it (which is odd, because the present Commission said Net Neutrality was about “permission less innovation”). But, that’s not my point. ISPs and their partners should be allowed to experiment extensively, innovatively with sponsored content / data, priority deliver, etc. just as Twitter does. They want to be able to do this without the FCC having to grant a permission slip, to serve consumers as they see fit, not as unelected bureaucrats believe is “best.”

Mike Wendy December 12, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Did you pay a subscription to the NFL to see that game on your smartphone? Not if you saw it on Twitter. It subsidized that convenience. If you have wi-fi, you could have seen it without it counting against data. Gosh, would that be cool if your Wireless ISP and Twitter (or others) teamed up to offer that entirely free over LTE, etc?

Floating goal-post Net Neutrality makes that unlikely to occur.

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