An unlikely voice has joined the passionate debate over Internet regulation known as net neutrality: Burger King.
The fast-food chain released a nearly three-minute video on YouTube that portrays the downside of being asked to pay more for speedier service. In it, customers at a Los Angeles restaurant impatiently wait at the counter for Whoppers while others who, they are told, had paid more, received faster service.
The customers are baffled, such as the hungry diner waiting for what turns out to be a slow-access Whopper. “Wait. What?” he exclaims.
“Whopper neutrality was repealed,” a counter worker explains.
“We believe the Internet should be like Burger King restaurants, a place that doesn’t prioritise and welcomes everyone,” Fernando Machado, Burger King’s global chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “That is why we created this experiment, to call attention to the potential effects of net neutrality.”
Burger King restaurants are independent franchisees but the brand is owned by Restaurant Brands International, based in Ontario, Canada.
Wonks and politicians perked up.
“Must watch,” tweeted Hawaii Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, who has criticised Federal Communications Commission Republicans for their December vote to eliminate rules forbidding broadband providers such as AT&T Inc and Comcast Corp from blocking or slowing web traffic.
“When it comes to the Internet, consumers and innovators deserve to have it their way – not big corporations,” Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, another Democratic senator, said in a tweet.
Some panned the ad.
“Burger King understands net neutrality even less than their people-on-the-street, who at least know they are ignorant,” tweeted Phil Kerpen, president of the group American Commitment, which backed the Republican proposal to roll back Obama-era rules.
At the end of the video, the chain’s King mascot sips from a giant mug bearing the logo of Reese’s candy. It’s an unmistakable reference to US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, who wields a large mug emblazoned with the Reese’s image at agency meetings.
Pai steered the agency in December to a party line vote that eliminated Obama-era rules on net neutrality. — Bloomberg