Why Not Net Neutrality?

Image: (FILES)The logo of internet search enginWith the FCC about to rule on net neutrality next month, we need to look at this very important subject for what it is.  The Left, which is largely for it in keeping with their anti-corporate rhetoric, loves to gussy up things in soft, fuzzy, cuddly phrases like “net neutrality” or “fairness doctrines.”  That should be a warning sign.  Everyone loves equality, neutrality and fairness, but they become suspect as soon as the government becomes involved.

In essence, the FCC wants to treat internet service providers like public utilities and then regulate it in the interests of neutrality towards content and speed.  This all stems from beliefs like those expressed by Stanford law professor, Lawrence Lessig, that the Internet is like any other common property akin to public roads and parks. This view is patently incorrect.  The Internet is actually a network of privately owned computers, servers and cables.  Obama’s FCC ignores these plain facts and this is revealed as nothing more than the intellectual confiscation of private property.  Proponents argue for a “stupid network” which means that the providers must remain neutral with respect to how data flows over their lines.  In effect, proponents are advocating how they believe the Internet should work.  They are advocating for government control over the privately held infrastructure that makes the Internet possible.

The Left argues that net neutrality rules would encourage Internet innovation.  This is the most ridiculous assertion in their arsenal of reasons.  One need look at the Internet today and how it has developed absent government regulation.  They claim that it would put small start-ups on the same footing as behemoths like Facebook and Google.  But every “behemoth” became one without government regulation.  How this encourages technological innovation boggles the mind.  Do they believe that technological entrepreneurs sit around thinking about the “next big thing” in the hopes that if they do succeed they can be regulated by the government?  Only in the crazed mind of the Left is such a scenario possible.  Whether we are talking about a start-up like Google, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, Pay Pal etc., they all seem to have done remarkably well without government help, regulation or interference. This argument is without merit whatsoever.

Imagine if the Internet is regulated like any other public utility.  Right now, people pay certain fees to gain access to the world at their fingertips in a relatively neutral manner and a relatively high rate of speed.  It is estimated that wireless broadband currently reaches 99% of Americans and that 85% of Americans have access to Internet connection speeds of 100 Mpbs or faster.  Providers have invested over $1 trillion in the Internet since the 1990s without government regulation.  Charging the same tier price for everyone is inherently unfair to those who have made these investments.  One should pay more for the more data you use.  And one can argue that not everyone should be entitled to equal service rates.  What is more important- the business making a multi-billion dollar transaction, or Joe Smith uploading the latest video of his cat taking a crap on the toilet?  According to the FCC, that cat’s crap is equal to the billion dollar transaction when it comes to the Internet.  That explains net neutrality in a nutshell.

Furthermore, there will be increased costs in one’s service despite the assertions of those on the Left.  For example, if the FCC regulates internet providers like public utilities, then they are subject to a 16% service fee which will drive up the price of every smart phone, handheld device and computer in this country.  The comparison to other countries is also without merit.  For example, proponents note that the United States ranks 31st in terms of download speeds.  And so what?  Really fast is really fast no matter how one looks at it and if one wants to download something really, really, really, really faster, then why not pay for it?  But, the FCC rules would prohibit this free market solution.  The overwhelming majority of American Internet users do not need connections at 100 Mbps or faster.  Does anyone care that Estonia has a faster overall download speed?

Net neutrality furthers the interest of state-sanctioned monopolies if internet service providers are treated like public utilities.  One need only look at how public utilities operate now.  In exchange for that monopoly, they subject themselves to regulation.  If the Left can rail against too-big-to-fail banking monopolies, then they should likewise rail against large internet monopolies, but they hypocritically don’t.  Instead, in the interest of regulation, they actually encourage monopolies which explains why companies like Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and AT&T support net neutrality.  It is not based on some lofty embrace of equality and fairness.

Finally, the Left asserts that these rules will in no way discriminate against content nor prevent certain content from the Internet.  Really?  The FCC already has specific rules regarding content in other areas under their regulatory framework in the telecommunications area. The infamous fleeting nipple on a live Super Bowl telecast was litigated in the courts for years because of an FCC regulation.  If anyone thinks the FCC will not regulate internet content and such, then they are Utopian fools.

By dumbing down the Internet in the name of “equality” or “neutrality,” the FCC is simply transforming personal property to “public property.”  We have seen this before (its called communism) and we have seen how it works- Russia and China are shining examples of net neutrality in action.  With shining examples like that, is this really what we want?  For years the Internet has transformed the lives of millions by bringing knowledge and information from around the world into one’s home, office or cell phone without government regulation.  Why the need now for the government to interfere in an area where no regulation has advanced the lives of so many is mind boggling, unless there is some other reason behind the calls for net neutrality and government regulation.  We have seen what happens when the government rides in on their shining horse and tries to regulate where the free market can suffice as in the case of health care (I am sounding like [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]).  With the Internet, there isn’t even a problem to begin with, unlike health care costs.  This is yet another power grab by the federal government in the name of solving a non-existent problem.  Given the importance of the internet in the lives of so many, it is incumbent on all conservatives to resist government regulation in this area.