Updated on December 28 at 2:48 p.m. ET
The most recent chapter in the debate over net neutrality has been, like previous chapters, cacophonous. One notable difference this time around, though, was the relative quiet of many large tech companies. In previous years, these firms had been outspoken about the issue. What changed?
Netflix’s net-neutrality journey is an illuminating example. In 2014, Reed Hastings, the company’s CEO, issued a strongly worded warning about oppressive “internet tolls” that could threaten the web’s status as a “platform for progress.” His company had recently tussled with Comcast (ultimately agreeing to pay the cable company to get data for its streaming videos to customers smoothly) and Hastings felt a need to take a stand in favor of net neutrality. In advance of a 2015 Federal Communications Commission vote on the issue that went as Netflix hoped, the company’s representatives reportedly contacted or visited FCC officials more than a dozen times.
In the time between then and last week—when the FCC voted to undo its 2015 regulations—something, apparently, had changed. “We think net neutrality is incredibly important,” Hastings said at a tech conference in late May, but went on to say that it’s “not narrowly important to us because we’re big enough to get the deals we want.” The size of his company, his comments suggest, could come in handy when negotiating the agreements theoretically opened up by the repeal of net neutrality—such as fees that internet-service providers (like Comcast) could ask for from, well, just about anyone (like Netflix), in exchange for speeding their data along. Netflix did submit two filings to the FCC in the run-up to last week’s vote, but the commission didn’t have any record of lobbying visits on the company’s behalf during that time, according to Bloomberg.