Ads to Which You Don’t Consent

A Brief History

2005: The Stone Age

The rules are:

  1. Provide high-quality mobile broadband service.
  2. Offer ubiquitous coverage over a wide geography.
  3. Make information available to anyone, at any time.

I am an Internet Service Provider. These are my guidelines for the services I render. I offer robust service for an ever-expanding network, but my ambitions are limited. For example, I am regional. Also, I am a relatively small company and have so far closed only a few acquisitions.

AT&T Ad (Source: Giphy)

Source: Giphy

I am focused.

I am customer-first.

And the people love me. The people use their cell phones, which is a minor revolution. They are amazed at the possibilities of the 21st-century, and I am the gateway to the things that are possible. I am an enabler of information. I am a provider of fast, smooth, 3G content.

These are the good days. People can check their email on the go, these days.

Email on the Go

I am in charge today. I may be small and limited in scope, but I am the king. I decide what the people can and cannot do with their phones, but for all the things they do on their phones, they pony-up. I let them send texts. I let them place calls. They pay and pay happily because all things are now possible and who’s to say what practices are best. The phone companies make phones that I sell in my strip-mall pop-ups, but all have my logo on them and all have my software pre-installed.

These days are good.

2008: The iPhone Era

iPhone GIF (Source: Giphy)

Source: Giphy

The emergency obstacles are:

Improve the network!

Charge more!

Brace yourself!

I am an Internet Service Provider. These are my most urgent needs in a business that is spiraling RAPIDLY out of control, and I am pissed about it. I offer shitty service on a collapsing network, it would seem, and my ambitions are to make it till tomorrow. For example, I am maligned constantly but users and tech press, and bloggers, and mothers, and basically everyone. I am a hated company and am considering many acquisitions.

I am hated.

I am dumb.

Smartphone Identity Crisis (Source: Giphy)

Source: Giphy

These are the days of the new phones. The iPhone is here now, and something called Android that was bought by Google. The phones do the email and the texting, but more. Everything is more. The Internet is now a real thing on phone, and video.


On phones!!

These days are new and expectations have changed. Suddenly my provided internet service is expected to be legit internet service. Expectations for mobile broadband and wired broadband are on a collision course, and now we’ve gone from a world where anything is possible to a world where everything really should be possible.

I can’t keep up.

The phone makers have become the kings.

Us networks are passé. The platforms have cachet.

Now all the cool shit comes from the devices — which we don’t make, we just sell, like suckers — and the carriers are the ogres under the bridge who charge for everything new and exciting. I don’t regret charging for everything, but people didn’t used to bitch about it. Now they bitch about it, and oh yeah, my service is too slow and I’m the worst.

Also fuck the iPhone. I got no logo on the iPhone. I got no software on the iPhone. I just cradle the iPhone in my network like some precious little shit and the people like it and I got nothing but miscellaneous bullshit charges at the end of the month to remind them I’m still here.

Destroy the Cell Phones

These days suck.

Consensual Advertising: A Digression

Ad Man

Are YOU in need of a brand new car?


You know, come to think of it I am in need of a brand new car.

Ad Man

And are you in need of an expensive car with many options?


My current car is mid-priced with few options, but I think on my next car I would like extra options.

Ad Man

And would you love OnStar Guidance and a PowerTrain Warranty?


I don’t really know what those are but I think Jeff next door got a PowerTrain Warranty and his car just totaled a Prius so I think I’d like one of those too.

Ad Man

Then come-on-down to Harris Hyundai and pickup your Pickup today! You are not gonna want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime daily sales event of the century. Come on down today!


Oh shit I’ve gotta come on down today this daily once-in-a-lifetime sales event is NOT gonna last and I gotta replace my Prius oh God I gotta pickup that PowerTrain NOW.

2010: The Era of Mergers and Acquisitions

The strategies are:

  1. Purchase proprietary, high-quality content.
  2. Make it cheap to steam over slowly-improving mobile broadband.
  3. Shack-up and merge. Eliminate the competition.

I am a digital media conglomerate. These are my guidelines for an evolving market. I still offer robust service — soon, maybe, 4G service. I’ve lost control that I’ll never get back, and people still hate me, but I’ve got a way forward.

I am digital-first.

I am all about content.

Ominous Servers

I have been ravenously gobbling up competitors. Now, there are only four serious mobile networks in America, which honestly, is plenty enough competition to go around, thankyouverymuch. And I’ve been buying up the content companies. My buddy AT&T got DIRECTV, and is trying to swallow up Time Warner. Comcast got NBCUniversal. Verizon grafted onto itself AOL and then Yahoo! like a freaky Mr. Potato Head.

This is the game. Fuck being an Internet Service Provider, I hate being an Internet Service Provider and everyone begrudges me for charging for my services. The name of the game is what kind of service. Are you providing HBO? Are you providing CBS? No one really gives a shit how fast, secure, or ubiquitous your network is. Those concerns are stone age concerns.

The future is about differentiation, not through a superior network quality, but through a superior portfolio of content that can be accessed through each network.

These days customers want content, and I provide it. The more of that content I own, the less they’ll pay. If they want to stream my network bundle, they’ll pay less! If they want to stream someone else’s network bundle, they’ll pay more. It’s perfect. Digital-first. Content-oriented.


Source: Giphy

I’ll still carry the YouTube and the Netflix. I’ll still pretend not to watch the porn you watch. I’ll charge five cents per text message to people who still text message, and I’ll pack your bill with subscriptions to my in-house navigation app, and I’ll bundle my shit-house software on non-Apple phones. I’ll still do these things because those things ain’t broke.

But those things are the past and the future is content-specific networks. You want shows X, Y, and Z, you gotta get on my network. You want some other crap shows, you can get on some other crap network. The future is about differentiation, not through a superior network quality, but through a superior portfolio of content that can be accessed through each network. Specifically, mine.

Maybe I’ll even set up new lanes. The fast lane for the apps and services that pay me more to get to users lickety-split. A slow lane for everyone else.

These days are okay.

2015: The Era of Neutrality

The regulations are:

  1. NO BLOCKING. No blocking access to content, apps, or services
  2. NO THROTTLING. No slowing down access to content, apps, or services.
  3. NO PAID PRIORITIZATION. No favoring specific content, apps, or services. No fast lanes. No prioritizing in-house content.

I am a digital oligopoly running aground amidst suffocating regulation. These are the rules, the NEW rules from the playbook of governmental overreach. These are the rules under the FCC, a new stick up my ass and a fuck-you to the ISPs.


I am a common carrier — an old term for providing phone services that don’t discriminate based on the number called, now applied towards the Internet.

I am a basic utility — another old term for a dumb pipe that provides indiscriminate service as a public good, PACKED with regulation.

This is carnage. These are the new rules and the new rules suck. No longer can I discriminate the speeds of the data I send you. No longer can I throttle companies that don’t pay me a little somethin’-somethin’-extra. No longer can I charge more for whatever-the-fuck I wanna charge more for. No longer can I prioritize my in-house content!!

Obama Net Neutrality

Source: Giphy

This is the pits.

I get around this slightly with zero-rating. That is, providing you my in-house content not at a faster speed, but at the same speed, while not counting it against your data cap. Get it? Sneaky, but inevitably, insufficient.

The FCC is trying to get us to compete against each other by being a better network, but that’s stupid and we don’t to do that. We want to compete against each other by having qualitatively different kinds of content on our network. I will sell you my Internet, and someone else will sell you their Internet, and you will buy the Internet that has the things you want. It’s perfect, and now, it is impossible. Thanks, Obama.

2018: OTHONK, A Media Company

The new rules are:

  1. We are NO LONGER required to tell customers what data we collect, nor are we required to have them opt-in to collect it.
  2. We are NO LONGER required to take reasonable measures to keep our customers’ data secure.
  3. We are NO LONGER required to inform customers about data breaches in a timely fashion.

I am an ad-tech, media-first, future-based, 21st-century conglomerate called OTHONK. I am a grafted-together result of two dozen mergers between ISPs, ad-tech firms, and content houses. I am a monster.

I am all about ads.

I am watching.

Data Stream

I am OTHONK. I am from the future, but born in 2017 when Congress made these NEW RULES, which are really just a revocation of some shitty rules made by an old FCC from a bygone time. Those rules were shitty and prohibited us from tracking you all the time. These new rules are great, because they are not rules, they are tacit permissions to track the shit out of you at the root of the network.

I am OTHONK. I am an ad-tech firm like Google and Facebook, but unlike Google and Facebook, I am also the backbone of the Internet. Also unlike Google and Facebook, I charge a lot for my core services. But even though we are totally different, we had been treated totally different by regulators and that sucked. Now we all can track and advertise on a level playing field.

And sure, Google and Facebook are non-essential services with viable competitors.

And sure, Google and Facebook provide valuable services for free with an understood quid-pro-quo

The Joker

Source: Giphy

And sure, you can install ad-blockers on Google and pretty easily not use Facebook.

But still we were regulated differently from them and that sucked. But no, we are not and that’s great.

I am OTHONK. A year ago I installed a super cookie on you, and I’ve seen everything. I would be pretty judgmental but I’ve made a lot by selling your data to advertisers, so I’ll let the weird stuff slide.

2020: Ads to Which You Don’t Consent

The rules are simple:

  1. Do NOT let them know you’re tracking you. If they know you’re tracking you, don’t let them know how thoroughly.
  2. Do NOT let them opt-in. No one will opt-in.
  3. Watch everything. Don’t blink.


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