Whoppers and Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is not the easiest subject to comprehend and digest, and as a result, there is a lot of misinformation circulating the internet about this hotly debated topic. Discussions about net neutrality surfaced in December 2017 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to overturn the 2015 Open Internet Order set in place by President Obama’s administration. The vote passed three to two and sparked further discussions about what would happen next. The next month, in January 2018, Burger King created and released a commercial attempting to explain the implications of the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality using Whoppers. Burger King’s commercial is an attempt to educate and ignite the public to take action against the FCC, hoping that the public believes that they are fighting to keep the Internet free and open.

In the commercial, customers look at a menu and select which burger option they want. Customers must select the rate at which their Whopper is prepared, downplaying the complexities about net neutrality. Burger King describes this rate as “Making Burgers Per Second” (MBPS), which is a play on words on Megabits per second (Mbps); Mbps is the average number of bits or data blocks per unit of time traveling through a communication link in a data-transmission system. The Burger King employee tells customers that a customer’s Whopper could be prepared at a slower MBPS for only 4.99, a faster MBPS for $12.99, and a hyper-fast MBPS for $25.99.

The commercial shows customers getting upset when those who paid $25.99 for a Whopper are prioritized over customers who bought Whoppers at a slower MBPS. The commercial is an oversimplified view of the issue and misleads the public about what will happen because of the FCC’s repeal. The commercial implies that the new rules will have already taken effect and you will need to pay to have the same Internet access as one had before the repeal. That is not what will happen. The new rules need to be entered into the Federal Register and will go through the federal rulemaking process that will take at least 12-18 months. It will most likely take months to enter the new rules in the Federal Register and that is just the start. The Burger King commercial is another tactic to keep the debate alive and spread false panic in the public eye.

Steven Crowder, from Louder with Crowder, lays out how Burger King did not properly explain the implications of the repeal of Net Neutrality. Crowder suggests a more accurate representation of net neutrality would be if Burger King priced all items on their menu the same, regardless of size or quantity. With net neutrality, the government puts a price fix on the Internet that eliminates value, demand, and competition.

There is no need for hefty government regulations on the Internet, like the 2015 Open Internet Order. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are in the customer service business. If they do not service their customers they will be out of business. Burger King’s commercial depicts what they want the public to believe about the effects of the repeal and persuade government officials to reinstate neutrality. After the commercial aired, a few states, such as California, New York, and Montana, are reinstating net neutrality on the state level. The battle between state governments and federal governments will increase as blue states believe that they are protecting the Internet by reinstating net neutrality regulations.

Net neutrality regulations put a burden on the Internet by treating all data equally. The public and government officials should not believe that heavy government regulations will protect the Internet’s openness. Burger King’s Whopper neutrality commercial is not only misleading, but depicts the implications of the FCC’s net neutrality repeal in a hyperbolic fashion. Though Burger King wants to educate the public and put their two cents in the political realm, they should really stick to making Whoppers.