The Case Against Net Neutrality
As we discussed in a previous article discussing the case for net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to treat the Internet as a public good, similar to how it regulates telephone and television broadcast systems in the twentieth century. While the practical ramifications of this ruling may take years or even decades to be truly felt, the bottom line appears clear: much like the National Football League (NFL), the “American” internet will have a set of rules and a referee, i.e. the FCC, to enforce them in the name of net neutrality.
Although numerous individuals, grassroots organizations, technology celebrities and even President Obama lobbied for and strongly support net neutrality, the FCC ruling also has many vociferous opponents. Here, we shall outline some of the major criticisms of the decision and present the core arguments against a more government regulated Internet.
Free Markets and Ideas Trump Net Neutrality
Why should all data be treated equally on the Internet when it's not treated equally in real life? Human beings deserve the freedom to choose what information and what forms of data they wish to produce and access. Books (including digitally published books), magazines, newspapers, journals etc. are not subject to equal treatment. The marketplace decides what material gains mainstream traction, and what publications go the way of the Dodo bird. As before, specialists can choose material that supports their theses and furthers their knowledge base.
Treating data differently on the Internet is a normal, logical private sector response to genuine consumer demand. It will help guard against bandwidth “hogs” (e.g gamers, movie streaming companies, etc.), and unleash innovative pricing models and schemes that benefit end users, i.e.:
- Premium services at premium prices.
- Prevention of Traffic Congestion.
- Creation of tailored pricing packages according to usage.
Net neutrality will lead to data and information mediocrity, to the detriment of intelligent and entrepreneurial minds who increasingly get pushed aside under an onerous U.S government-refereed Internet.
Discouraging Infrastructure Investment and Increasing Consumer Costs
Far from favoring small entrepreneurs, minority groups and socially disadvantaged segments of American society, the FCC net neutrality ruling will burden citizens by imposing both hidden and visible taxes ($72 minimum annually per person). It will discourage vital internet infrastructure investments so badly needed to maintain the United States' preeminence in the digital economy today and in the foreseeable future.
Business growth, consumer choice and competitive markets are best served when businesses are freed from bureaucratic red tape, heavy taxation, and limited internet government regulation – a certain outcome of the February FCC ruling:
“...restricting service plan options is inherently anti-competitive and anti-consumer. The inevitable results will be higher prices and less service for consumers along with an especially adverse impact on small providers and upstart competitors trying to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.” - Ajit Pai and Joshua Wright (see sources below).
Voices Against Net Neutrality
Potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has come out strongly against the FCC's plan to treat the Internet as a public good, and hopes that the Congress can help reverse its decision. Other prominent voices against net neutrality include:
- Many large cable providers and Internet hardware companies (e.g. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, Juniper, dLink,Wintel, Corning).
- Marc Andreessen , co-founder of Netscape.
- Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems.
- Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab.
- Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and co-founder of Broadcast.com.
- Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and Facebook investor.
- National Urban League.
- Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH organization.
- League of United Latin American Citizens.
According to net neutrality opponents, basing the U.S. Internet's future on Title II regulatory laws within the 1934 Communications Act is the height of bureaucratic arrogance and stupidity. Given that the United States is heading into another presidential election cycle, count on net neutrality and the government's role in Internet governance to be front and center for years to come.
See also: The Case for Net Neutrality
Sources: Ajit Pai and Joshua Wright, “The Internet isn't broken. Obama doesn't need to 'fix' it.” Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com/ 18 Feb 15 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-internet-regulations-fcc-ftc-obama-broadband-perspec-0219-20150218-story.html Accessed 12 Mar 2015.