Net Neutrality

Having Failed at Making Edible Burgers, Burger King Tries To Explain Net Neutrality

The second-rate fast-food giant gets basic internet protocols wrong.


Burger King is just about nobody's first choice when it comes to garbaging up on fast food and its latest gambit helps to explain why. In a YouTube video, the tax exile corporation explains

The repeal of Net Neutrality is a hot topic in America, but it can be very difficult to understand. That's why the BURGER KING® brand created WHOPPER® Neutrality, a social experiment that explains the effects of the repeal of Net Neutrality by putting it in terms anyone can understand: A WHOPPER® sandwich. This effort aims to help people understand how the repeal of Net Neutrality will impact their lives. The BURGER KING® brand believes the Internet should be like the WHOPPER® sandwich: the same for everyone.

Forget for a moment that the unique selling proposition of Burger King and the WHOPPER® used to be (wait for it)…"Have it your way." And keep in mind that the now-defunct Federal Communications Communications' Net Neutrality rules were memorably and usefully defined by economist Thomas W. Hazlett as government regulation of ISPs' business models and a way of giving a new mission to an agency whose reason for being is less and less clear and whose history is not filled with glory. Just take three minutes to watch this scenario pranking a few "actual guests" who wandered in off the street to escape the cold, beg for change, or use the bathroom:

The joke in the video is that customers must pay $26 to get a Whopper "hyperfast." If they go with the standard price, it takes forever. Because you know, Net Neutrality rules that were formalized in 2015 somehow magically altered the way internet service providers (ISPs) delivered data to their customers. Before 2015, the internet was a morass of shakedown artists who forced all of us to pay extra for this or that site. And now that Net Neutrality has been repealed, the 'net has reverted to a Hobbesian world in which access is nasty, brutish, and metered.

Oh wait, in fact, the average speed and number of internet connections kept growing regardless of the regulatory regime. The FCC's most recent Internet Access Services Report counted 104 million fixed internet connections, a new high. That number doesn't count mobile or satellite connections. Eighty percent of census tracts had at three or more ISPs offering connections of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream and another 17 percent had two ISPs doing the same (figure 4). So 97 percent of America can go elsewhere when it comes to basic internet connections that allow the sort of streaming, surfing, and gaming we want. Just as customers do with Burger King, we can say, "Screw it, I'm going to McDonald's." In 2016, 56 million residential connections offered at least 25 Mbps upstream speeds. That's up from about 22 million in 2013 (figure 8). How did that progress happen before the 2015 open internet order?

Watching the responses by customers helps explain why Net Neutrality rules as mandated by the FCC under Tom Wheeler were unnecessary. After all, for all the hysteria kicked up around the need for such rules, proponents went begging for examples of ISPs throttlng traffic or blocking sites in systematic ways. ISPs don't actually enjoy pure-monopoly conditions, but even if they did, customers would raise holy hell if they were treated as poorly as Burger King acts in this video. To wit:

As economist John Mueller notes in his…Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery, even monopolists have reasons to court a captive market. If they do so, explains Mueller, they're "more likely to be able to slide price boosts past a wary public—that is, such moves are less likely to inspire angered customers to use less of the product and/or to engender embittered protest to governmental agencies."

Current FCC head Ajit Pai once called Net Neutrality "a solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist." The new Burger King vid helps prove that point.

Read Reason on Net Neutrality.