With the death of net neutrality, how will music consumption change?


By Mike Frash //

The way the Internet works is about to fundamentally change, unless companies, organizations and people continue to band together in a populist uprising to take on Big Cable. If the Telecom behemoths have their way, the wild, weird open web as we know it is dead.

So how might the death of net neutrality effect the way we consume digital music?

The second battle over net neutrality is heating up, and we the people are losing. A major blow to net neutrality went down last week when a three judge panel unanimously agreed with Verizon’s appeal to 2011 net neutrality regulations that “the FCC did not have the legal authority to enact …”

Within a day, a grassroots conglomeration of 76 major websites and thousands of others organized by Battle For The Net joined forces on September 10th for “Internet Slowdown Day”, building a campaign of awareness around the corporate threat to net neutrality.

On September 10th, over two million people took action, making 312,171 calls, writing 2,332,092 emails and filing 777,364 comments to the FCC, numbers that indicate a successful viral and action-inducing effort. One of the more effective illustrations of the Internet’s possible future came from Join the Fast Lane, a mocked up website that shows what using the Internet might be like soon.

The battle over net neutrality signifies the most important struggle between populism and corporate interest in the age of information. “Team Cable” has the money and K Street influence on their side, but “Team Internet” is able to use their platforms and creativity to make an impactful counter attack.

Visit Battle For The Net and sign their letter to lawmakers — it should take about 20 seconds to complete.


So what will happen to the landscape of digital music consumption if net neutrality is no more?

Rock The Net is an effort from the Future of Music Coalition, which believes “creators must be able to compete on a level technological playing field alongside the biggest companies.” Artists that support Rock The Net include R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, Bob Mould, Calexico, Les Claypool, Rogue Wave, and many more.

In writing about access and innovation for artists, Rock The Net declares, “imagine logging on to your favorite band’s website, only to have it take forever to load on your computer because they couldn’t afford (or didn’t want) to pay a toll to powerful Internet Service Providers. All artists deserve the right to use the Internet to cultivate listeners, and fans deserve to make their own choices of how and where to access legitimate content. That’s why the open Internet must be preserved.”

Is it possible that net neutrality regulation are part of why there are more mega-break out bands now more than ever? Would Imagine Dragons, alt-J, Chvrches, The Lumineers, Disclosure, Sky Ferreira, Capital Cities, and Bastille have all made it as big as they are now without an open Internet?

Streaming music has become the most essential means of listening to music, greatly reducing peer-to-peer piracy. Piracy has been so rampant that many artists stream new albums a week before they are released. Spotify, Beats Music, Pandora, MOG, Rdio, YouTube, Grooveshark and others have become the de facto platform for music consumption.

When these companies are forced to choose the “fast lane” of bandwidth options, you can bet streaming will cost more — all so the elite can get richer. Services that don’t pay ISPs could lose sound quality if they don’t pay to allow users more bandwidth — as Gizmodo pointed out, “… the end of net neutrality would mean striking deals with ISPs if they want to reach consumers, the same way television networks must do with cable companies.”

The absence of net neutrality also means it’s plausible that Big Cable could help decide the victor of the battle for streaming supremacy by taking the most strategic pay-to-play partnership that comes their way.

And if streaming starts to sound worse, has interruptions or gets more expensive, won’t we see a second boom in piracy? Will private bit torrenting networks become even more popular, while a new generation masters IP blocking and online activity masking?

How do you see the future of music without net neutrality?

As corrupt as this whole thing is, it’s not over yet. You can still make your voice heard at the FCC Website, and visit Battle for the Net for more information and tools for your own website.

What is net neutrality?

You might be asking yourself, what exactly is net neutrality and why do I care? Let’s let Jimmy Kimmel, an expert curator in virality, explain:

We are now amidst the second major battle of online businesses & users versus IP & Content Provider Associations. The first major counter-offensive on January 18, 2012 was against proposed legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which were legislation largely funded by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). If passed, these laws would have threatened online freedom of speech and Internet communities. Websites could be outright shut down if one user of a community shared a link to trademarked media.

Virtually all major web-based businesses protested this legislation. Wikipedia went completely dark for the day, only featuring an easy to use widget that helped visitors find the contact details of their representatives in DC. Reddit, WordPress, Mozilla and Flickr conducted prominent information campaigns. Google covered their iconic landing page logo with a censor bar, and a petition at Google recorded over 4.5 million signatures.


Congressional offices were flooded, and the laws being pushed by content provider associations and big cable were tabled, and the power brokers behind the would-be laws had no clue what hit them. But in typical villain style, these groups retreated to their lair to regroup, strategically infiltrating the FCC, to come back with a stronger and final spear to the heart of net neutrality.

The FCC cleared way in April for a two-tiered system, where Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon can charge tech companies for bandwidth priority, creating a
fast lane” for established businesses that can afford it, making it much harder for start ups and small businesses to compete. It’s a sort of caste system that will ultimately mean consumers pay higher prices for online subscriptions and services.

The biggest hurdle for the people and online businesses is the cronyism between the FCC and Telecommunication Corporations. Comcast has spent over 18 million dollars in lobbying over the past year. Law professor and net neutrality expert Susan Crawford has essentially said that “if the FCC tries to save it [net neutrality] … Republicans have sworn to dismantle the FCC.

Then in 2013, President Obama named Tom Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for a consortium of Big Cable behemoths, the current Chairman of the FCC. John Oliver compares this incestual corruption hilariously to “needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.”

The semi-fascist possibility of collusion between the governmental agency meant to regulate communications and the cable providers themselves looms over all these proceedings. As Vice pointed out, “The FCC is stocked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the defeat of net neutrality.”



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