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In a recent video, the world’s fifth largest fast-food chain explores what happens when you restrict customers access to the Whopper.

Abbey White
January 25, 2018

In the battle over net neutrality, apparently one fast-food chain is king when it comes to understanding what’s at stake, and it’s none other than the home of the Whopper.

Last year Google, Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, and other internet giants pushed back against the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to deregulate the internet. At the time, the concept—that an internet provider could charge customers different and increasing rates to gain more access to content (like access highways)—was somewhat foreign to most average Americans, who have become accustomed to the “open internet” model. 

While a vote by the FCC last December essentially overturned regulations preventing telecom companies from tiering the internet in this way, some U.S. legislators, citizens and companies have continued efforts to protect net neutrality, and that list has now expanded to include Burger King. Yesterday, the world’s fifth-largest fast-food chain released an explainer video on the pitfalls of net neutrality using its very own signature sandwich. After asking several random strangers on the street what net neutrality was (and not getting very clear or informed responses), the fast food giant takes us into a location converted for a social experiment of sorts. Once inside, we see the process for ordering and receiving food has been slightly altered.

Customers are told by fake employees that the company is shifting its focus towards selling chicken sandwiches and chicken fries, “so now they are slowing down access to the Whopper.” When ordering, one has the option to choose between three prices (from around $6 up to $26) that are determined by the “making burgers per second” or Mbps rate. The faster you want your burger, the more you pay. Opt for the lower Mbps rate, and you’ll have to wait—even if your burger is there and ready. While certainly not scientific, it is intriguing to watch the hilarious, cringe-worthy, and impassioned reactions to the idea of Whopper access (and thus “internet access”) being controlled this way.

This combination of stunt marketing and brand activism (that does encourage you to sign a petition in support of net neutrality) is a new vein in the fast-food viral marketing push of recent years. But it’s also just a clever way of exploring the expectations we attach to things like food or the internet, and how deeply ingrained the “fast” in fast-food service is.

By the end of it and with Whoppers in hand, most customers seem to have the light-bulb turned on. And while it’s not clear why Burger King would be so invested in upholding net neutrality, the home of the Whopper does makes clear where it stands in the fight for equal internet access: “The Internet,” the last line of the video reads, “should be like the Whopper sandwich: the same for everyone.”

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