Net neutrality may not be as neutral as it seems.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, an “open internet”, sometimes referred to as “net neutrality” consists of regulations to “protect your ability to go where you want when you want online. Broadband service providers cannot block or deliberately slow speeds for internet services or apps, favor some internet traffic in exchange for consideration, or engage in other practices that harm internet openness.”
“Why should we trust the government, a monopoly, to act fairly and even successfully in regulating our internet, which in the last few decades has become essential to our republic?”
On February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In May of 2017, the Trump administration’s FCC, headed by Ajit Pai, proposed to draw back on some of those heavy-handed regulations imposed on Internet Service Providers (ISP’s). As this issue gained traction on social media in December, many became outraged on this “unjust” attempt to destroy our beloved and free internet. Artistically sound graphics along with an abundance of websites, and even a text service set up where people could text “RESIST” to a certain number, supporting net neutrality became trendy.
Supporters of net neutrality say the telecoms have way too much power. This makes sense, but this claim more appropriately opposes the bill. I would argue that monopolies are bad and that I will usually throw my support behind competition. The U.S. government is the largest monopoly in the world, controlling trade and enterprise to the fullest extent possible. Why should we trust the government, a monopoly, to act fairly and even successfully in regulating our internet, which in the last few decades has become essential to our republic? Complete full market control of the internet and ISP’s would allow for Comcast and Verizon to be subject to competition, eventually dissolving their monopolies. This would also mean that places in the middle of nowhere, who typically rely on small businesses to provide internet services, will see a reduction in coverage. Small businesses simply will not be able to cover the burden of regulations imposed on them.
Pai recently said in an interview with PBS that “there is a study by a highly respected economist that says that among the top 12 Internet service providers in terms of size, investment is down by 5.6 percent, or several billion dollars, over the last two years. And amongst smaller providers as well, just literally this week, 22 Internet service providers with 1,000 customers or less told us that these Title II regulations have kept them from getting the financing that they need to build out their networks. And, as they put it, these net neutrality regulations hang like a black cloud over our businesses.”
More importantly, I believe in freedom of speech. Our government has a poor track record when it comes to guarding our privacy. How will the FCC ensure that ISP’s are complying with Title II regulations without having access to consumer information, like what websites people look at, for how long, when, and where? Can we trust the government to have access to that information?
“This argument falls apart when you remember that net neutrality has only existed since 2015.”
Another argument I keep hearing is that without net neutrality, we’ll have to pay for social media platforms like Snapchat and Twitter. This argument falls apart when you remember that net neutrality has only existed since 2015. Were Twitter and Snapchat free prior to 2015? No. In fact, no major ISP has ever attempted to throttle access to certain websites on any kind of large scale that would affect consumers. Somehow the Obama Administration convinces the FCC that these regulations were simply protections, but they really just weren’t necessary in any capacity.
Before 2015 we saw tremendous technical growth in the digital industry. Companies spent trillions innovating new technologies and algorithms to ensure that consumers could access information. Because of that, America has some of the best internet access in the world, with 92 percent of homes having quality broadband connections.