Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Comcast Celebrates the Death of the Internet with a Billion Dollar Skyscraper

If you live in Philadelphia, or even know someone here, your Facebook newsfeed is already full of posts from BizJournals to to Philadelphia Magazine about Comcast's $1.2B expansion by renowned architect, Norman Robert Foster.

It's exciting. At over 1100 feet it won't just be the tallest building in Philadelphia, it will be the tallest building in the United States outside New York and Chicago. It will bring more than 6000 construction jobs and even more permanent jobs to the region.

Norman Robert Foster's Bob Fernandez echoed local concerns that Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal might pull jobs to New York and Los Angeles. Obviously this expansion is hopeful, right?

Well, buried beneath the glossy renderings and excited tweets is another story. Unfortunately it's not covered in glitter and cats, or whatever gets the internet excited. Miley Cyrus? It's saddled with beltwayease, politico mumbo-jumbo, and lengthy dialogue that most don't bother to read.

I'm talking about the death of Net Neutrality and the conveniently timed $1.2B announcement by a company that stands to exponentially profit from the demise of an open internet.

Sadly, most people don't know what Net Neutrality is, yet its existence ensures that we are free to explore what has become our greatest communicative resource: the internet. And without it, the World Wide Web is about to get narrow.

Just yesterday a court struck down an appeal against a Verizon lawsuit that would change the rules, and throw out Net Neutrality. As a result, Netflix stock plummeted.

Why? Because this is the internet without Net Neutrality:

For decades we've been forced to purchase cable bundles full of nonsense channels like HSN and Oxygen just to get CNN and ESPN. That's the internet without Net Neutrality. While the most notable restrictions would be on sites that require higher bandwidth like Hulu and Netflix, Comcast and Verizon would be free to exclude websites with which they have no vested interest, or charge more for them.

To make it simple, think of it this way:

You purchase Comcast's Basic Internet Package, which includes basic search engines, email, and news sites that don't contain streaming videos. You go to CNN and click on a video. A pop up displays on your screen that reads, "You must subscribe to Xfinity Permium to view this story, please call..."

Worse, companies would be free to restrict access to sites like YouTube and Flickr simply because they're owned by your service provider's competition.

Cable companies do it all the time. The demise of Net Neutrality means internet service providers can profit more by providing less, which is why it's so fitting, convenient, and not so surprising that Comcast decided to celebrate the defeat of a free internet with a $1.2B skyscraper.


  1. When I heard the news, I was wondering what you would have to say about this. That headline is gold.

    1. Thanks. I think the growth is great for Philadelphia, but I'm surprised that no one else has questioned the timing.