01/21/2014 12:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Life After Net Neutrality? Less Choice Means Greater Value! Just Ask ABC's PR Team

Always beware when the PR and marketing types cloak obnoxious business practices in the lingo of "greater value" for customers and their "key strategic partners." Code words for: we're putting handcuffs and you and don't bother screaming because no one will help you.

Case in point: the new "verify" policy from ABC. To watch the most recent episodes of your favorite shows, you have to log in and verify that you pay some cable company for a TV subscription. Like many people, I no longer want to pay a cable company $80 or $100 a month to watch TV. So I don't have a cable TV subscription.

I prefer to watch TV the old fashioned way: just turn on the TV machine (my desktop computer) and watch a show, commercials and all. Just like I used to do when I was a kid back in the 1960s watching Speed Racer on a fuzzy black and white TV with a coat hanger for an antenna. (Yes people really used to do that. And in a house with four rambunctious boys, TV antennae tend to get broken.) You flip the ON/OFF switch and watch your show. No intermediary required.

That's not good enough for ABC and its "key" partners (see FAQ) They think it's better for me to have to pay a cable company a monthly fee in order to watch current TV episodes on some website--even if the show has commercials embedded to generate revenue, and even if I already pay the ISP a premium for my "high-speed" Internet access. That's what's called a "bundle" and it will only get worse when telecom companies no longer have to abide by net neutrality rules.

I won't be a week behind on Revenge, likely I won't be able watch Revenge at all without getting nickeled and dimed to death on fees. In which case I will stop watching. (Right now I almost don't care any more what happens. It's too much effort to jump all the financial hurdles just to follow a TV show.) And yet, every time I see that "ERROR" message I want to put my fist through the machine, and I curse the bevy of nitwits at ABC who sat around a conference table overlooking the Manhattan or L.A. skyline and all agreed that this would be a really smart strategic business move on their part.


Less is More!

The last line of ABC's ERROR message tells you that if you keep seeing the message, then "Let Us Know." But if you click the link to give them a piece of your mind, what you get is a FAQ that gives you a piece of their mind -- regaling you with all the reasons why blocking your access to your shows is good for you!

The new "verify" program, according to ABC, "puts access to the network right into your hands." Really? Did they write that with a straight face? And in a hat tip to the cable companies, they say: "Now, with the support of participating pay TV service providers, the ABC network is able to continue to bring live entertainment, news and sports programming on a national and local level as well as the latest on-demand episodes on new, emerging digital platforms at no additional cost to their subscribers." [But lots of potential costs to non-subscribers.]

Said another way: Great news!! We can continue to bring you TV over the Internet just like we used to, but now you get immediate access only if you pay one of our partners a usurious monthly TV fee, on top of their already usurious ISP charges! Isn't that great?

Like the charming little girl in the AT&T commercials, they say, "We want more!"They like your money... and if you decide you want to keep more for yourself, too bad. They want more! And they're very creative in finding ways to ply it from your grasp.

Handcuffing You to a Flawed Business Model

The marketing language of "customer value" is pretty much always a smoke screen. Google's FAQ and verbiage was similar when it instituted a new comments policy for YouTube: comments are now "powered" by Google+. And according to Vic Gundotra (or his PR flack), who posted a comment on the new policy: "Integrating Google+ Comments strengthens this important tradition [broadcasting your message and empowering your community] by encouraging more meaningful conversations around videos."

Read through the lines: Your conversations are not meaningful to us until they help us make Google+ profitable, and our needs matter more than yours.

You get the same sort of hype from agribusiness around the issue of genetically modified foods (GMO). They use flowery claims of value and safety for you and the environment, but fight tooth and nail to prevent state-based labeling with cautions about "consumer confusion". They try to pre-empt states with toothless Federal regulation that they write themselves, and even try to disguise their GMO products with words like "natural," to confuse consumers.

Fact is, GMO plants fail to live up to many of the industry's claims. They need more herbicides not less (because it turns out some weeds are also pesticide resistant and spraying more chcmicals like RoundUp allows these "superweeds" to flourish, thus requiring more herbicides). They also use more water, on a planet that is increasingly thirsty. Many of the industry's claims are false. So how can we trust their "customer value" language on the issue of safety?

But here is the real truth, whether GMO companies will admit it or not, what they are really after is market share: they want to earn a royalty every time you eat a helping of peas. In fact, I don't believe they will be satisfied until: 1) they earn a royalty from every food item on your dinner plate and in your fridge; and 2) there are no non-royalty free food choices left in the world. Think about it: it's what every company has wet dreams about, a captive market from which you can squeeze an ingoing annuity payment--forever. With Monsanto's new GMO cotton you'll have to pay them a royalty for half your wardrobe. Never mind the impact on farmers. (Lots of choice wordsmithing in that statement.) Watch the documentary Food Inc. if you want more on Monsanto's sharp-elbow tactics.

Get Ready for a GMO Internet

When you go roaming on the Internet get ready to pay a fee - just like you pay a roaming charge to your cell phone carrier for leaving the network. Internet providers who own the tubes, want to charge you for every little genetic modification they make to your Internet, all in the name of consumer value and choice, and all-American business "competition." But as everything the marketing types try to sell you with this lingo: BUYER BEWARE.

The viral graphic from Reddit user quink looks eerily accurate.


To this I would like to add the kind of FAQ you might find on the hypothetical TELCO website regarding their "new and improved" Internet service packages...


TELCO Internet Service FAQ

Welcome to the award-winning FreedomWeb: your Internet powered by TELCO and our key strategic partners. Through FreedomWeb, TELCO brings you more choice and control over your Internet than any other provider. By choosing any one of our 38 different plans, you can customize your Internet just the way you like it. With our exclusive systems (Tether, TetherPlus and TetherMax), we help build you a personalized home base on the Internet, bringing you a comprehensive selection of the Web's most popular and influential content providers. You no longer have to be burdened by all the Internet content you don't use--our program reduces your cost and maked surfing easier, faster and more fun.

Q: Why do I have to choose my content providers, why can't I just surf?

Many people find the Internet an unwieldy and cumbersome tool, with too many choices and too little consistency in quality. It's easy to get lost, linking through a lot of disconnected content, and you never know how reliable unknown websites can be. At TELCO we believe in customer choice and want to put the power of the Internet in your hands by letting you choose which content providers you get content from--names that you know and trust.

Q: But why can I only choose from providers that pay a fee to be on your platform?

Content providers on our platform include some of the best-known names in Internet content and programming. These companies are at the forefront of content development through new technologies and platforms, and have proven themselves to be among the most reliable sources on the Internet. Not any company can just "pay a fee" to be on our platform. We have chosen these providers because of their demonstrated track record in delivering value to our customers.

Q: The awards you have won come only from companies that pay a carriage fee to be on your system. Why is that?

Our key strategic partners are renowned for their independence and integrity. We are proud that in their independent research we have consistently ranked as the nation's top Internet provider.

Q: I tried to do some Internet research on your content partners but I could only find news stories and reviews they write about themselves and each other. Where can I get more information?

TELCO's patent-pending ContentComet technology aggregates user feedback, news and reviews from a wide variety of sources from across the Internet. The tremendous value it offers consumers is its ability to filter results for you, without you having to do the work. The technology is a major breakthrough for two key reasons: it solves the issue of reliability by drawing from only the most well-recognized providers, with a proven track record of accuracy; and it prioritizes sources that you've told us you wanted to hear from. It's a terrific advancement in customization of the Internet, delivering you the most important and relevant reviews according to your stated preferences.

Q: But I only picked these content sources because you forced me to, how can I get information from other sources?

Expanding your Internet may be as simple as picking a different package from our menu of 38 options. Some options may cost more, but you can't put a price on knowledge and information. Given its limitless value, many customers find that it's worth it to pay a bit more.

You may also access a different provider from a different device. For example, the Internet package offered by your cell phone company may be very different from the TELCO TetherPlus package you use at home. You could purchase one set of Internet selections for your home computer, and a totally different set of Internet selections for your cell phone--e.g., you may want GoogleMaps on your cell phone for travel, but not at your home office where you are stationary. Paying separate fees to different providers allows you to disaggregate Internet content and deliver specific content to specific devices.

Again, we see this kind of expansion of choice as a benefit to the consumer. You can pick what you content want to get. You can choose what company you want to provide it. And you can access different content selections from different kinds of providers. It's all about empowering consumers with choice and value.

Q: I liked my old Internet access where I could link to anything, anywhere, anytime, and get unlimited access to all content from all devices. How can I get that back?

Building and maintaining Internet infrastructure is an expensive proposition that requires ongoing investment. At the same time, burdensome Federal regulation contributes to increasing costs for Internet providers. To continue delivering your Internet with maximum efficiency and choice--on the most up-to-date technology platforms--TELCO and its partners believe that streamlining the way you access content is an optimal solution that puts you in control, while ensuring that we can continue developing, and delivering, the Internet platform of the future.

Q: But wasn't dumping Net Neutrality supposed be all about getting rid of burdensome regulation that forced you to treat everyone equally?

The outdated term "net neutrality" was used to impose burdensome Federal regulation on an innovative and entrepreneurial Internet, which had grown exponentially over decades without any help from the Federal Government. TELCO and our industry peers in the private sector continue to fight burdensome regulation that inhibits your rights as consumers.

Q: I tried to research Internet regulation and legislative initiatives, as well as campaign contributions, but public interest websites were slow to load and often froze--how can I get more information?

Slow page loads are the most common customer inquiry we receive at TELCO, and we assure you that we take the issue seriously. Our key strategic partners report better than 99.998% compliance with a page loads rate of less than 1 second. We are proud of this record and always strive to make it better. For non-strategic partners, slow page loads are yet more evidence that more needs to be done to upgrade and enhance investment in the Internet. Our entire industry is committed to bringing you innovative solutions to your Internet needs. And easing Federal regulations that stifle innovation and competition, and disincentivize private investment, will help a great deal to ensure that everyone has access to a fast, safe, reliable Internet--customized just for them.

Q: I don't find any of these answers helpful, where can I get more information?

The Internet is a wide-open space that puts a wealth of information at your fingertips. There is a vast selection of news and information sources on TELCO's FreedomWeb, from which you can get independent, well researched content. For best search results, we recommend using our proprietary FreedomTracker web browser and our recently upgraded SkyEye search engine. Or please feel free to visit our FAQ page at:

(Welcome to the future, after Net Neutrality....)