Net neutrality is the principle that all internet data should be treated equally, that no service provider should sell preferential treatment to the highest bidder, and that no company can discriminate what sites their users see. It prevents wealthier sites like BuzzFeed from being the fastest things on the net. It prevents Comcast from charging WordPress more to reach their readers at a decent speed. It prevents streaming services, like NetFlix, from passing these new expenses to their customers. It evens the playing field for established corporate entities and promising young entrepreneurs.
Over the course of two elections, this administration ran on the platform of preserving net neutrality. So, how could the President’s appointment for the chairman of the FCC propose its end?
If you’re like me, you suspect secret societies and Satanic rituals are somehow involved. The following is a dramatic reenactment of how I think the whole thing went down.
The Esoteric Order of Internet Service Providers
From the stairs, the underground lair looked like a wolf’s den. The pack was positioned with their fur to the ceiling. They knelt in a circular formation around the podium. With pelts quivering in the midst, they looked like beasts digging, but it was fingers, not claws that held their sacred rings.
Stepping onto the floor, the Alpha broke the fog, dragging a fur robe behind him. The silver mange of his wolfskin hood blended into his hair. Its frozen ears were raised in a permanent state of alarm. Its furrowed brow framed the rubies in its eyes. With its snout jutting out, its canines cast shadows down the Alpha’s face.
The Alpha’s flesh glistened, a pallid mask of skincare products. A pair of black, sunken eyes, hid behind his spectacles. When he looked to his followers, they skittered back with their tales between their legs.
The plumage from a flock of cardinals lined his robe, clasped together with fragments of antlers. Peacock feathers shot out from his shoulders, casting shadows on his snakeskin sleeves. His was a technicolor coat of death and nightmares. Standing over his followers, he was an apex predator.
The Alpha approached the podium, to find a wolf’s paw. A remote stuck out from the amputated limb. Looking to a projector on the ceiling, his gaze followed the beam to a towering curtain. Pinching the paw until he felt a click, he watched a blood red moon flash onto the screen.
“Arise my brothers.” The Alpha’s voice boomed with seasoned authority, a refined tongue that had no qualms with giving orders.
The pack did as instructed.
The Alpha pinched the paw. Spinning, the moon shrunk into the dot of a question mark.
“You’re probably wondering why I risked exposure by calling us all together, a first in the history of our industry.”
The Alpha hit the paw again. The moon spun into a painted skyline. Beneath it, wolves lunged at a moose’s neck.
“The time has come for the pack to come together against a common enemy.”
The Alpha pointed from one side of the room to the other. “The Cult of Comcast must merge with The Time Warner Templars, as The Mystics of Qwest merged with The Society of CenturyLink, and The Crimson Veil of Verizon merged with The Brotherhood of Bell Atlantic.”
He pointed to the members buried in the middle of the group. “The Mediacom Masons must join the Confederacy of Charter Communications.” He pointed to the far back. “The Knights of NetZero must converge with The Union of USI Wireless.”
The Alpha spread his arms open, revealing the long black feathers that adorned his wingspan. He clapped his hands together. “The Esoteric Order of Internet Service Providers must join as one.”
The Alpha’s nails dug into the paw. The moon spun into an orbit above the earth. It shared the sky with the title “GOOGLE FIBER.” Below was a map of the United States with three green pins labeled “Google Fiber Cities,” and several red pins labeled “POTENTIAL GOOGLE FIBER CITIES.”
The crowd hissed at this image, vampires in the sightline of a crucifix.
The Alpha nodded. “The Fiber is coming. Google brings it from the west. AT&T brings it from the south. In a few years our customers will have an alternative 100 times faster than broadband.”
The slide zoomed into the map, past the lakes, mountains, and highway grid system, settling on a mob of torch wielding villagers. Still, the blood red moon hung in the distance.
“These freeloading-reloaders will kick down our doors, calling for better rates. These social network scroungers will make us break up our bundles. These porn watching picketers will demand better customer service.”
Bickering and commotion swelled around the room. Panic was in the air. The Alpha let the smell of fear waft over his followers. Its stench reached a fever pitch, before he signaled for calm.
The Alpha lowered his hands. “But there is hope, a revenue stream we have yet to tap into.”
He gave the paw a good squeeze.
The blood red moon morphed into a succulent red apple. The caption read “FORBIDDEN FRUIT.”
The Alpha cleared his throat. “One third of our bandwidth has been taken up by streaming services. If only we could throttle their speeds, charge these bandwidth bloodsuckers to get their data to its destination on time.”
Squeezing the paw, the Alpha bit his lip. On screen, a hand reached for the apple, only to be interrupted by a webbing, wrapping itself around the fingers, keeping the fruit just out of reach.
The Alpha shook his head at the floor. “But alas, the mages at the FCC have bound our hands in a net of neutrality.”
There were boos at the mere mention of the FCC. This time the Alpha didn’t shush them, he wanted to draw out the crowd’s contempt.
Walking into the pack, the Alpha addressed each member as he passed. “Their spell made us treat all information equally. It made us deliver two videos from competing services to their destinations at the same time. It prevented us from providing the fastest carrier pigeons to those with the most coin.” He turned to the screen. “That was until one of our own infiltrated their ranks.”
The Alpha held the paw high. The apple morphed back into the blood red moon. Spinning into the shape of an iris, it settled into the eye of a portrait. The subject of the portrait wore a pinstripe suit and a wolfskin hat. The caption read “FCC CHAIRMAN TOM WHEELER.”
“The chairman, a former cable lobbyist, remains loyal to the cause. He tells us that the FCC’s protection spell has weakened, that now is the time for our ascension.”
Wheeler’s red eye morphed into the moon, then the dot at the bottom of an explanation point.
The Alpha swatted at the air, as if he was plucking his points from it. “These movie watching moochers, these Netflix leeches, and these Skype parasites have sucked their fill.” He shook his head. “My brothers, I’m here to tell you that their bandwidth welfare ends tonight.”
The pack erupted in wild applause, stomping on the floorboards, howling at the ceiling. The Alpha soaked it in before lowering his hands.
“The Hulu hucksters, the Spotify sponges, and the iTunes trailer trash will pay to be in the fast lane or be left in the gridlock. The YouTube youths, the Twitter takers, and the Pirate Bay bums will pay our toll or be trapped at the booth. We’ll slow them down so much, they’ll long for the days of dialup.”
The Alpha squeezed the paw one last time before leaving it on the podium. The curtain rose, revealing a red light in the space vacated by the moon. The Alpha led the pack to its source, an old brick well sticking through a gap in the floorboards.
He waved his hand through the light emitting from the well. “Behold the Cauldron of Comcast.”
The pack made a path for a big burly brute to approach. The brute wore a dire wolf cap to accommodate his massive scalp. Grunting, he dragged a giant sack to the foot of the well. When something inside it moved, he kicked it. The Alpha raised an eyebrow. Bowing, the brute backed away.
The Alpha cracked his knuckles. “It has been said that the internet is a series of tubes. This well leads to that network through the bowels of the dark lord Mammon, the wolf king of monetization.”
“All hail, the dark lord Mammon.” The pack spoke in unison.
The light brightened at the sound. It liked what it heard.
Gripping the air, the Alpha’s voice echoed.
“Hear us now mighty Mammon, your servants beckon you to cast off this net of neutrality. Let our monopoly stand as a monument to your malevolence. Hear our invocation and accept our offering.”
Reaching into the sack, the Alpha pulled out a kitten by the scruff. He held it over the well. Oblivious to its predicament, the kitten licked the Alpha’s palm.
Scratching the kitten’s chin, the Alpha whispered. “You look hungry, my feline friend.”
Its tail coiled around his wrist.
The Alpha raised his voice. “Too bad we’re all out of cheeseburgers, it looks like you can has death!”
The Alpha flung the kitten into the well. A meow echoed off into the distance. Ducking behind the stones, the Alpha recoiled in anticipation. A red flame rose from the pit, followed by smoke, and a burst of fur.
The pack howled. Mammon had accepted their offering.
Rubbing his belly, the Alpha made exaggerated chomping motions. “Nom nom nom nom.”
Reaching back into the sack, he brought out film actor Gene Wilder, bound in ethernet cables, dressed in a top hat, oversized bow tie, and long purple coat.
The Alpha patted Wilder on the back, fraternity brothers enjoying some light hazing.
The Alpha smirked. “Oh, you’re an accomplished movie star? Tell me what you’re most remembered for?”
The Alpha loosened the wires from Wilder’s mouth.
Wilder shook his head. “What are you talking about, that stupid meme? I’m not Willy Wonka, okay. He’s one of many characters I’ve portrayed. Hell, I didn’t see Johnny Depp in there.”
The Alpha raised his chin to the red well behind his victim. “Tell me Mr. Wonka, are the fires of hell a glowing?”
Wilder didn’t notice. “Oh, you like quoting lines from my movies? Tell me about all the lines you remember from Blazing Saddles?”
Tonguing his cheek, the Alpha shrugged, “I got nothing.”
He shoved Wilder head first over the rim. Into the well he went, screaming all the way down. Flames spat from the well, a red tornado of fire and blood. The pack cheered the dark lord’s showboating.
The Alpha dug into the sack one last time. Out came, Dos Equis’s marketing figure The Most Interesting Man in the World, in the ruffled remains of his trademark tuxedo.
The Alpha adjusted his victim’s tie. “I don’t always make ritual sacrifices of internet memes, but when I do, I quote them beforehand.”
The Most Interesting Man in the World bit at his gag until he’d loosened the cords. Spitting them out, he shouted, “That’s not an organic meme. It’s just echoing an advertisement. Everyone saw it before it hit the net. If your master feeds on the collective unconscious he will take this offering as disingenuous.”
The Alpha scratched his chin, “That’s pretty deep… but not as deep as that well.”
The pack cackled.
The Most Interesting Man in the World took a deep breath. The Alpha shoved him in. He did not scream, there was only silence on his way down. The pack peeked over the rim, looking for signs of Mammon. They lunged back. The flame shot up so high it kissed the ceiling, staining the stalactites with blood. The pack howled until their cries turned to coughs, until their faces went red, and their throats went hoarse.
Falling to his knees, the Alpha raised his hands in prayer. “Mammon is pleased, the net of neutrality is finally broken.” He howled, “Ow ow-owww! The 21st century belongs to the cable companies. If this is the age of Aquarius, we shall lap up every last bit. If this is the age of information, we shall control the flow of it.”
Later that day, the FCC gave The Esoteric Order of Internet Service Providers the ability to do just that, ushering in a new era of total darkness.