How Burgers Proved a Point about Net Neutrality

OK if someone offered you $100 right now to explain, like really explain, net neutrality in Laymen’s Terms, could you do it? If you answered yes, good on ya. If you answered no, you’re not alone. A poll found that 75% of the 800 adults surveyed were unfamiliar with the term “net neutrality.”

Why is it so confusing?  I think it comes down to the word “regulation.” When people hear that net neutrality would regulate the internet (like it does with water or electricity), they may associate that with, say, monitoring and restricting content (WHAT ARE WE SOCIALISTS?!). In reality, these regulations uphold the tenents the world wide web was originally built on – keeping the internet free of corporate control, a place where everyone has the same access to the same data and can communicate freely. Now that the F.C.C. repealed the 2015 Obama-era decision to uphold net neutrality, companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast could eventually have the power to speed up or slow down certain websites to suit their own needs. For example, Verizon plans to launch its own streaming service. If they had the option, it would be in their best interest to slow down other streaming sites. They could ask consumers to pay more to access other channels, giving their own site an advantage. Guys, this is a big effing deal, but since the internet has always been a free and open place, it’s hard for us to grasp what it would be like if it wasn’t. If consumers could get their head around what this means for them, I’m positive more people would be angry as hell.

Burger King picked up on this problem and thought of a clever way to put it into perspective. They set up hidden cameras around one of their properties and explained to unknowing (actual) customers that they’d have to pay more for faster service. To rise from a slow MBPS (make burgers per second) to a fast MBPS, they’d have to pay $12.99 vs. $4.99. For a hyperfast burger? They’d have to fork over $25.99. Let’s just say people were (h)angry as hell. There was cursing. One dude snatched the burger out of the employee’s hand. My favorite part was at the end when the customers were interviewed. One guy said, “The whopper actually taught me about Net Neutrality. It’s stupid, but true.”  The spot ends with a link to a petition to tell F.C.C. and the congress that we want to uphold Net Neutrality and keep the internet free for everyone.

So, Burger King? Net Neutrality? What’s the connection there? I had the same thought, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. The slogan everyone knows is “have it your way.” They are proud of their affordable, made-to-order meals. They saw an opportunity to reinforce their commitment to equality by taking a stance on this topic and educating the public with something everyone can understand – burgers.

I looked on their site and scoured the internet, but couldn’t find any articles indicating that Burger King is using its influence to put pressure on congress regarding this issue. I think any amplification of this topic and efforts to help the public understand why it matters is valuable. However, if Burger King was serious about this issue, I’d like to understand what they’re doing (beyond punking their customers and making a funny commercial) to fight back. Perhaps getting directly involved in politics is risky, but they could take the educational route even further. Set up a microsite or social site dedicated to resources on net neutrality. Encourage people to take action through the petition or educate others on the dangers of this decision.

All in all, I appreciate the context they put around a complicated issue. And even though it was repealed, there is a lot of bipartisan support to fight the decision. This is where I do my part – If you’d like more information on the resistance of the recent net neutrality decision, go here. And if you’d like to add your name to the petition to bring back Net Neutrality, you can visit change.org/savethenet. We need to try to understand the implications of this decision to to fight for a free internet before it’s too late.

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