Net Neutrality is under attack by major tech companies, entertainment companies, and ISP’s. The number of threats is mounting as consolidation takes place across the tech and ISP worlds. When ISP’s merge with major websites or content producers it creates an unnerving monolithic conglomerate that can feed content to consumers and prioritize their content over that of content on other websites or apps. I’ve created this threat list and have been updating it privately for a few years now, I’m publishing it in hopes of helping business colleagues and others in the public understand what is happening and why.
The list has 3 threat levels:
- Red Alert – Stands to benefit greatly from lack of Net Neutrality
- Yellow Alert – May stand to benefit from lack of Net Neutrality
- Green Alert – Probably won’t benefit from lack of Net Neutrality
RED ALERT LEVEL
A Red Alert company is one that owns both an ISP and at least one or more of the following: entertainment production company or brand, publishing company or brand, news media company or brand, online advertising company or brand, or major website(s). These companies are labeled Red Alert because they have the motive to interfere with internet traffic in order to boost their own profits and hurt competition.
1. AT&T – AT&T DSL, U-Verse, DirecTV, HBO, DC Comics, Turner Broadcasting, Cartoon Network, truTV, CNN, Warner Bros, TNT, TBS, BleacherReport.com (manage), AT&T Mexico, Straight Path Communications, Crunchyroll (50%), Rooster Teeth (50%), Fullscreen (50%), The CW (50%), Quickplay Media, YP Holdings (47%), Game Show Network (42%), MLB Network (16.67%), Hulu (10%).
Note: AT&T’s Purchase of Time Warner is not yet approved and being contested by the US Government. That includes: HBO, DC Comics, Turner Broadcasting, Cartoon Network, truTV, CNN, Warner Bros, TNT, TBS, BleacherReport.com (manage), Crunchyroll (50%), Rooster Teeth (50%), Fullscreen (50%), The CW (50%), Game Show Network (42%), MLB Network (16.67%), Hulu (10%)
2. Google/Alphabet – Google Fiber, Android, Google Play, YouTube, YouTube Red, Double Click, Google Maps, AMP, NEST Labs, Google Search, Google AdWords, Google Wallet, Google Shopping Express, Chromebook, Chrome, Project Fi, Google Voice, Google Home.
Yes, Google is a big threat to Net Neutrality and in fact are the reason that it does not apply to mobile networks having joined Verizon in a 2010 push against it. [source]
3. Verizon – Verizon Fios, Verizon Wireless, Verizon High Speed Internet, Yahoo!, AOL, The Huffington Post, Engadget, TechCrunch, MapQuest, Moviefone, Tumblr, Flickr.
Not only has Verizon been fighting Net Neutrality for at least the better part of a decade, they also now have a lot of online content and media.
4. Comcast – Comcast Cable, NBC, NBC Local Stations, Universal Pictures, Telemundo, Midcontinent Communications, Philadelphia Flyers (NHL), Wells Fargo Sports and Entertainment Center (Philadelphia), Universal Studios Theme Parks, HULU (30%).
Comcast has experimented with pricing models that would violate the spirit of / regulation of Net Neutrality in the past and has spent millions lobbying against it. Now that they own NBC and Universal Studios along with a big stake in Hulu the company is definitely one of the most likely threats to Net Neutrality.
5. Facebook – Facebook, Messenger, Facebook Watch, Instagram, Oculus, Internet.org, Whats App.
When Facebook launched “Facebook Watch” they moved to a Red Alert status now combining an ISP (Internet.org), Major website, and Content Production company or brand. They were at a yellow alert status prior to this because Internet.org is not a major ISP. However a minor ISP combined with a major website that has a history of cutting off traffic to other websites and hurting online content creators that now has it’s own unique content is considered a Red Alert threat.
6. T-Mobile – T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Layer3 TV
T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” movement made waves in the tech world and brought the lack of mobile Net Neutrality to light when they began to offer music streaming on certain apps for free and Netflix streaming over their network for free. The company has been listed as a Yellow Alert threat but was moved to Red Alert when they announced plans on December 13th to acquire Layer3 TV, an IPTV provider in Chicago, IL and Washington state. While details about the acquisition are scant it mirrors similar moves by AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon matched with the CEO’s outspoken stance against Net Neutrality this places the company on the Red Alert.
Disclaimer: I am a T-Mobile customer.
YELLOW ALERT LEVEL
This is a list of top tech or entertainment companies that could stand to benefit from a lack of Net Neutrality.
7. Disney – Walt Disney, Disney Resorts, Marvel, Lucasfilms, Pixar, Radio Disney, Maker Studios, ABC, ABC Local Stations, 21st Century Fox ESPN (80%), Hulu (30%), A&E (50%), History Channel (50%), Lifetime (50%), Military History (50%), Blaze (50%), Viceland (50%), VICE Media (20%).
Pending: 21st Century Fox movie studio, 20th Century Fox, FX, FXX, Some Regional Fox Sports Networks, Hulu (30%).
Note: The pending purchase of Fox’s TV and Movie business gives Disney 60% ownership of Hulu and total ownership of entertainment tiles such as; Star Wars: A New Hope, The X-Files, X-Men, Family Guy, The Fantastic Four, Deadpool, Alien, Predator, Planet of the Apes, Kingsman, Die Hard, Home Alone, Ice Age, Night at the Museum, Empire, This is Us, The Gifted, American Horror Story, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Legion, 24, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, M*A*S*H, Fox Sports Southwest.
8. Charter Communications – Spectrum, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Bright House Networks
Once the first company to receive a Net Neutrality complaint (TWC), the company appears to be well behind Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T in terms of building an empire that adds content to an ISP. I was about to move them to a Green Alert level because of their marketing making fun of the other ISP’s that throttle traffic, but the company is using the repeal of Net Neutrality in a legal argument against a lawsuit filled against Time Warner Cable for throttling speeds.
Comcast recently made an attempt at purchasing the company and Charter and Comcast are rumored to be working on a mobile network together. Charter is also attempting to purchase Cox Communications.
While Charter and TWC (now Spectrum) certainly have a past that pits them directly against Net Neutrality they have not yet made an attempt at acquiring content producers or publishers such as a video production firm nor have they attempt to build a major website or app.
9. Apple – iTunes, The App Store, Apple Music, Apple Maps, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Macbook, Beats by Dre, Shazam, Apple News.
Apple is included as a Yellow Alert threat because of their continuing hunger for content, control of the iOS App Store, and acquisitions that place them in competitive markets beyond hardware. When Apple acquired Beats and launched Apple Music this put then in direct competition with Google’s YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, and iHeart Media. The Apple ecosystem continues to grow in focus away from hardware having recently acquired Shazam. The future of Apple could be some sort of video Platform noun Any website, mobile app, SaaS, or other digi... to compete in that space.
10. Microsoft – Windows OS, Surface Pro, Bing.com, Mojang, Skype, Xbox, Yammer.com, LinkedIn.com, Lynda.com, Slideshare.com, Beam.pro, Minecraft, Scrolls, Cobalt.
Microsoft is still incredibly relevant in the modern tech world and could easily add an ISP to their tech products and suite of online websites including Bing (the #2 search engine in thee USA) and LinkedIn as well as to promote the usage of Xbox’s gaming network over competitors. The purchase of LinkedIn and their assets moved them up to position #8 on this list.
11. Amazon – Amazon.com, w00t.com, Zappos.com, Amazon Music, AmazonFresh, Kindle Store, Kindle, Amazon Studios, Amazon Digital Game Store, Fire tablets, Amazon App Store, AWS, AmazonWireless, Twitch.tv, Goodreads.com, Alexa Internet, Echo, Curse.com, Gamepedia.com, IMDB, Audible.com, Amazon Robotics, Quisidi.
Amazon doesn’t appear to interested in fighting Net Neutrality and has recently shown signs of support for it. Still they are a close threat if they ever decide to become an ISP for some reason they could violate Net Neutrality and cause major damage in the physical and online retail worlds.
12. Frontier Communications – Frontier FiOS, Frontier DSL,
Frontier has acquired some land lines from AT&T and Verizon. These transitions were often poorly handled with customers experiencing quite a few problems. The company’s roots of offering rural internet and their relatively weak market position don’t make them much of a threat at the moment. Most of Frontier’s system comes from Verizon where they purchased most of Verizon’s copper landlines and Verizon FiOS in numerous markets. This makes a strong candidate for this company to be an acquisition target by Verizon in a post-Net Neutrality world.
GREEN ALERT LEVEL
These are companies that do not pose an immediate threat either because they do not have the resources to do so or do not have the motive to do so.
13. Twitter – Twitter, Periscope, Vine (defunct)
Twitter has taken up the fight to save Net Neutrality recently. Along with that they do not own an ISP and have fumbled their attempts at running content platforms having shut down their most popular subsidiary Vine. That being said the company does have a track record of changing their API agreement and building products that compete against their devs (i.e. Meerkat vs. Periscope). Still Twitter stands to lose more than they gain currently if the Net Neutrality fails.
14. CBS – CBS, CBS News, CBS Local TV Stations, CBS Sports, CNET, Comic Vine, Download.com, GameFAQs, GameRankings, GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Last.fm, Meta Critic, Metro Lyrics, MP3.com, TV.com, ZDnet, Showtime, Simon & Schuster, CBS Radio, Radio.com, TheCW (50%), AXS TV (20%), HDNET (20%).
CBS was an early adopter to online content and has been making moves again lately. However, their focus is still on ad supported media and entertainment and there appear to be few signs that CBS would adopt an anti-Net Neutrality stance or build a system such as an ISP that would give them a motive to. Like 21st Century Fox or Fox CBS could be purchased by a Yellow Alert or Red Alert company.
15. 21st Century Fox – Fox Local TV Stations, 20th Century Fox (movies), Fox News Channel, FX, FXX, Fox Digital Entertainment, National Geographic (73%), HULU (30%).
Pending a sale to Disney, Fox has been fairly savvy on the web and showed no signs of trying to build a company that would endanger Net Neutrality.
16. eBay – Ebay.com, Stubhub, Craigslist, Magento Inc (spun off), Shopping.com, Meetup.com, Paypal (spun off), Bill Me Later, Kijiji.
eBay has a long history of building companies and spinning them off. In their current market position in online retail and given their marketing to users on Imgur they would likely not adopt an anti-Net Neutrality stance as it would lose them customers instead of gaining them.
17. iHeartMedia – iHeartMedia, iHeartRadio App, Local Radio Stations, Broader Media
Already the company has struggled against internet radio (back in the good ol’ days of Shoutcast) and streaming music apps. Now after a leveraged buyout in 2008 by private equity firms the rumor is that this major local media company is deep in debt (around $20 billion) and struggling. If it wasn’t for the debt this company might get bought out by a bigger player. For now, they don’t seem to be much of a threat.
18. Netflix – Netflix
Netflix is likely the company that stands to lose the most if Net Neutrality falls. While other video streaming sites will suffer, most of them do not rely on content produced by companies now owned or soon to be owned by major ISP’s. Disney has already declared they want to remove content from Netflix’s catalog and once they have 60% ownership of Hulu there’s a chance the company will stop using Netflix all together.
Did I miss a company? Let me know in the comments. Updates will be made to this from time to time.