BOSTON, April 11, 2011 – During the Free Press National Conference for Media Reform in Boston over the weekend, Managing Editor, Jonathan Charnitski, sat down with Cheezburger Network owner and CEO, Ben Huh, to find out how the debate over net neutrality shapes one of the largest – and funniest – user-generated content networks on the Internet.
JC: As the owner of a user-contributed content network, what is the importance to your business model of maintaining an open Internet?
BH: For us, we’re one of the small guys. We’re relatively large in terms of what we do – there are companies that are a lot bigger than us. I would hate to see the internet prioritized for the status quo instead of for innovation and for new ideas.
JC: Since you bought icanhascheezburger.com in 2007, have you seen the landscape change with respect to net neutrality?
BH: In terms of access and broadband, it hasn’t changed that much for us, but it’s one of those big fears we have down the road as more people access our site through mobile devices. It’s difficult to know how those companies are going to allow or restrict access.
JC: Have you received any complaints about ISPs blocking your sites?
BH: We’ve had some corporate networks block us – you know because they don’t want people looking at us during work – but we haven’t had any significant complaints that I know of.
JC: Does government intervention provide more or less security for you as a content producer?
BH: I wish it were a lot stronger. The mobile part of this is a big loophole in the system. You have the emergence of non-cable, non-DSL, non-fiber mobile – and mobile is going to become a big part of the landscape going forward. As you’re sitting there using Wi-Fi, the company running that actually has the capability to restrict point of access. It’s ironic that they’re leaving this big loophole for mobile, because the airwaves are communal property. We’re letting them own a public right of way.
JC: What are your thoughts on the FCC’s Open Internet Order? Did it go too far? Not far enough?
BH: I think the part that worries me the most is that there’s no clear public guardian when it comes to broadband. That worries more more than the Order because companies can erode this right. The FCC has tried to exert their right, but some in congress don’t think that’s correct. We need to clearly establish who is in charge of protecting the consumers when it comes to all of the internet – not just cable and landline, but also wireless.
Ben Huh is the owner and CEO of the Cheezburger Network, which owns more than 50 user-generated content websites, such as failblog.org and icanhascheezburger.com and boasts more than 16 million unique visitors.