It’s football season! Many NFL fans are spending their Sundays glued to their TV sets cheering on their favorite team. This season, those in the tech industry who are concerned about net neutrality have also taken an interest in football–primarily due to a recent FCC ruling.
Known as the “blackout” rule, this was 40-year-old FCC policy mandating that, in order for an NFL game to be broadcasted, the game must first sell all of its tickets 72 hours prior to kickoff. Due to the popularity of NFL games and the fact that they consistently sell out, rarely has this been an issue. In fact, the few times when a scheduled game has been blacked out, it was in regards to a small market team with a losing record (San Diego Chargers), playing another small market team that’s equally awful (Jacksonville Jaguars).
This October, the FCC unanimously voted to overturn this rule, citing how much the NFL business model and viewer habits have changed in the past 40 years. As reported by USA Today:
In the early 1970s, NFL teams relied primarily on ticket sales to generate revenue and the rule was implemented to encourage fans to attend games. But the league has diversified its revenue base by reaping billions in advertising and programming licensing fees from networks.
Now, let’s bring this issue to the IT Red Zone. Net neutrality guarantees that content is distributed over the Internet fairly. Time and time again, net neutrality is blitzed by deep-pocketed corporations wanting to use their money to gain an unfair advantage over the competition. So far, these advances have been met with goal-line stances by the American people and their voices have blocked these power plays.
In this metaphor, the FCC are the referees. Therefore, any adjustments the FCC makes to its rules will affect every aspect of the communications game, including net neutrality. In regards to the NFL blackout rule, this is a case reversing a rule that restricts the viewership of content. You can make the connection and see why fans of the Internet are taking notice.
This ruling takes a few pages out of the playbooks of Time Warner Cable and Comcast, two of the nation’s largest Internet providers that are proposing a merger. If these companies (or company, if they get their way) were successful in eliminating net neutrality, they would be free to limit the distribution of their competitor’s content in favor of their own. Unethical practices like this have both consumers and smaller Internet-based entertainment companies like Netflix and Hulu crying, “Personal foul!”
Granted, the legal proceedings surrounding the FCC and net neutrality aren’t nearly as captivating as gridiron action, but for businesses that are heavily dependant upon the Internet for their success, a ruling like this is equivalent to a touchdown.
Share your thoughts about net neutrality with us in the comments.
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