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Mark Cuban presents the great net neutrality novel of our time: 'Atlas Unplugged'

Mark Cuban presents the great net neutrality novel of our time: 'Atlas Unplugged'

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Mark Cuban is known as a billionaire entrepreneur, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and the creator of the EFF's "Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents." Henceforth, he will also be known as the creator of the greatest piece of fiction ever written about net neutrality: an update to the Objectivist pulp classic Atlas Shrugged for the internet age.

Cuban's construction is a little confusing at first because, as we all know, Ayn Rand loved trains and hated regulation. But he's comparing net neutrality rules, which would forbid internet service providers from offering different speeds to different companies for a price, with Atlas Shrugged's fictional rules, like the Equalization of Opportunity Bill that gave inferior companies an advantage over superior ones. And he's saying that the real-world justifications for net neutrality (it would stop de facto monopolies like Comcast from creating artificial barriers between new companies and subscribers) are as disingenuous as the reasoning of "looters" in Rand's dystopia:

"It was unfair to let one man hoard several business enterprises, while others had none; it was destructive to let a few corner all the resources, leaving others no chance; competition was essential to society, and it was society's duty to see that no competitor ever rose beyond the range of anybody who wanted to compete with him."

But that's just boring policy, so we can get to the real meat of his tweets. Namely, a reboot of Atlas Shrugged in which protagonist Dagny Taggart must defend Comcast from the wily machinations of the newly introduced villain Reed Hastings with the help of internet backbone magnate Hank Rearden — who has developed a revolutionary new kind of fiber optic cable that his competitors are desperate to suppress or steal — and the mysterious John Galt.

Comcast would appear more or less as it does in real life: an efficient cable and internet service provider that has captured over half of the market by consistently ranking among the most beloved companies in America. As in real life, its name would even top New York's GE Building, which sits behind the famous statue of Atlas, now strongly associated with Rand's book. While attempting to bring internet speeds ever higher in a constant drive for quality, she learns of Rearden's work and his cold relationship with his wife, who is tragically unable to appreciate his gift of a fiber optic bracelet and naively praises shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, unable to see that they are the product of a looter society that values fashionable nonconformity and destruction over true conviction.

"She relied solely on her 'good intentions' and the power of a gun."

As the two become lovers, Hastings and a group of startups (created to give a "democratic" platform to moochers and parasites) convince the FCC to adopt Title II reclassification, and the country's most competent coders and entrepreneurs begin to mysteriously disappear. In one of the novel's most controversial chapters, government regulation will cause Comcast's networks to fail during the series finale of The Walking Dead, leading to a riot that kills dozens. Fortunately, every single one of them will deserve it, as they believe that Comcast should not stop them from receiving fast over-the-top streaming TV. This will be especially true for a Verge journalist who believed she had the power "to wreck lives, unthrottle connections, strangle desires, violate convictions, to imprison, to despoil, to murder — for the sake of whatever she chose to consider as her own idea of 'a good cause' ... a feeling unrestrained by any knowledge, since she considered emotion superior to knowledge and relied solely on her own 'good intentions' and on the power of a gun."

Even the novel's central thesis, and the source of its title, can remain nearly intact.

"If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders — What would you tell him?"

"I... don't know. What... could he do? What would you tell him?"

"To unplug."