What the heck is net neutrality?
Last year the Federal Communications Commission overturned the Obama-era policy (referred to as “net neutraliy”) that “had placed Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon under the strictest-ever regulatory oversight.”
The “net neutrality” debate has been going on for several years and is now back in the news again as a state rather than a federal issue. Last year, the attorneys general from over twenty states, including Illinois, sued to overturn the FCC’s action. Now legislation has been introduced in Springfield to apply “net neutrality” principles to Internet service providers that operate in Illinois.
The Illinois Family Institute occasionally addresses things that seem to be outside the realm of what would be considered “pro-family” issues. A closer look reveals that, as I’ve said often, all the issues are the same. Giving just one example of my point, the policy debate is typically between those who want more government and those who want less.
Three years ago, Stella Morabito wrote an article titled “15 Reasons ‘Marriage Equality’ Is About Neither Marriage Nor Equality: Don’t fall for the ‘marriage equality’ sales pitch. It’s a deception.” In it, she wrote (and notice her reference to “net neutrality”):
Most persist in the blind faith that a federal ban on the standard definition of marriage will have no negative effect on family autonomy and privacy. That’s a pipe dream.
The same-sex marriage agenda is more like a magic bullet with a trajectory that will abolish civil marriage for everyone, and in doing so, will embed central planning into American life. And that, my friends, is the whole point of it. Along with Obamacare, net neutrality, and Common Core, genderless marriage is a blueprint for regulating life, particularly family life.
She goes on in her article to discuss the problem of “unintended consequences” that result when too many “Americans are in a fog” about the details backing up Leftist policy proposals.
I confess to not having investigated the issue of “net neutrality” until I was asked to write about it for IFI. Like a lot of people, I rely on writers and policy experts I’m familiar with and trust to provide short cuts for me to figure out which is the right course of action. Unfortunately, sometimes I disagree with my favorite writers, so that reliance is not foolproof.
In this case, however, I do side with “my trusted advisers.”
What’s in a Name?
Note Stella Morabito’s title mentioned above: “‘Marriage Equality’ Is About Neither Marriage Nor Equality.”
That reminds me of the “Affordable Care Act”? Like millions of others, my own heath care policy soon became unaffordable after that monstrosity was enacted.
Leftists know how to deceive, so when something is called “net neutrality,” watch out. As one Chicago Democrat said, “A free and open internet is important to promoting democratic society.” We have good reasons to suspect that “free and open,” means expensive and closed.
What it net neutrality? To its supporters, it is big government looking out for us little guys. Its opponents see it as a power grab by bureaucrats and lobbyists. Supporters believe it is our friendly and helpful government coming to the rescue of helpless people against large meanie corporations. Opponents say is it just more government meddling that makes things worse.
Since the FCC acted, the cry from Leftists nationwide is “The fight for net neutrality is just beginning!” At the other end of the political spectrum, Heartland Institute president Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D., former Kansas Congressman, said: “The FCC’s vote today [over-turning Obama’s regulation] is a vote for freedom from big government control of the internet.”
In the same article, Heartland policy expert Seton Motley agreed:
“The Trump administration is rightly and reasonably restoring that pre-2015 status — you know, the one that in 20 years transformed the internet from ‘What’s that?’ into one-sixth of our $18 trillion economy. There was nothing wrong with that internet. In fact, there was trillions and trillions of dollars’ worth of right with it.”
Seton then took the gloves off:
“Net neutrality is more of a religious concept than an economic one. Old-fashioned, heavy-handed utility regulation is what these zealots are really asking for. Their followers, like lemmings, support them based on ignorance, foolishness, and, as we have seen in some cases, malevolence. Chairman Pai and the other FCC commissioners who joined him deserve our thanks for standing up to this mob and putting the interests of the country, as well as sound economic principles, first.”
Yes, I side with them.
That’s the big picture. For those who want to learn more specifics about the impact of having or not having “net neutrality,” below are several recommended articles and some excerpts from them. Included in the following is an explanation of why the words “net neutrality” are used, some technical information, and a review of similar regulatory actions by the government that impeded genuine technological progress.
* * * * *
Do you really want ‘all or nothing’ to be your only choice in Internet plans? That’s what you get with so-called ‘net neutrality.’
From the article:
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who supports overturning so-called net neutrality, told Reason in an interview: “It’s telling that the first investigations that the prior FCC initiated under these so-called Net Neutrality rules were involving free data offerings…To me it’s just absurd to say that the government should stand in the way of consumers who want to get, and companies that want to provide, free data.”
Letting Business Evolve Freely Makes Stuff Better Faster
The FCC under the Obama administration seemed to assume that “the more things change, the more we should force them to stay the same.” But the new and improved gadgetry we’ve grown accustomed to over the past couple decades has accompanied business models almost as innovative as the technology itself. We have “freemium” models for software, a dozen monetization strategies for websites, ride-hailing apps with experimental pricing algorithms, subscription-based video streaming services, and tons more creative ways to connect users and providers.
Other points made in the article:
- “Business is constantly evolving along with our technology to serve our varied interests. So why would we treat Internet service providers (ISPs) any differently than providers of other goods and services?”
- “Why stifle innovation by shoving them into the categorical box of “utility,” snapping the lid shut, and then sitting on it?”
- The FCC chairman said that “80 percent of fixed wireless providers have ‘held back on investing’ in infrastructure because of these [net neutrality] rules. While new tech may increase speeds and sites will continue to evolve, government has effectively frozen in place the way Internet is packaged and paid for. That can only serve the interests of the well-established players.
So, wait, big corporations like this governmental meddling? Yes.
- “It’s been harder for small ISPs to invest and expand under net neutrality the past two years. This set of policies hasn’t done anything to break up the pseudo-monopolies of Comcast and other Big Evil Corporations.”
- Under our current system, the giant telecom companies might be able to dominate the industry with terrible customer service, mediocre speeds, high prices, and opaque contracts forever.
Here is Daniel John Sobieski writing at American Thinker (another one of my “advisers”):
Net neutrality’s dubious value is made obvious by the misleading way Democrats and many news outlets reported the decision. “F.C.C. plans net neutrality repeal in a victory for telecoms,” wrote the New York Times. Missing from the headline or lede was that the decision was a loss for Netflix, Amazon, Google, and other corporate giants that provide content.
Liberals oppose the free flow of information they can’t control and in the name of providing equal access to all they sought to regulate the access of everybody. They, in effect, sought to put toll booths and speed bumps on the information superhighway.
. . .
President Obama feared the free flow of information as a threat to his power grabs and attempt to fundamentally transform the United States. Just as cable news eliminated the old guard network’s role as gatekeepers of what we saw and heard, the Internet freed information consumers to seek the truth and speak their minds in an unfettered environment.
Under net neutrality, the FCC took for itself the power to regulate how Internet providers manage their networks and how they serve their customers. The FCC would decide how and what information could flow through the Internet, all in the name of providing access to the alleged victims of corporate greed.
The Internet, perhaps as much as the first printing press, has freed the minds of men from the tyranny of those gatekeepers who know that if you can control what people say and know, you can control the people themselves. And that is what President Obama feared. In a May 2010 commencement speech to graduates at Hampton University in Virginia, President Obama complained that too much information is actually a threat to democracy.
The article includes what Obama had to say — you should read it and image what the reaction would’ve been if President Trump had said that.
Again, here is Sobieski:
Net neutrality was not designed to liberate but to suppress. It is the Fairness Doctrine of the Internet that like Obama’s war on Fox News and conservative talk radio is designed to marginalize and silence those who disagree with those in power.
Here again is Robert Tracinski:
The history of AT&T shows how the Internet as we know it was born out of rejecting the policies that are the backbone of ‘net neutrality.’
Last week’s announcement that the Federal Communications Commission will soon vote to roll back “net neutrality” regulations has produced a lot of hysterical overreaction, with headlines proclaiming, “FCC Is Revving Up to Destroy the Internet as We Know It.”
This obviously counts on the audience’s ignorance of history. The Internet started in 1969 (depending on what you count as the Internet), and the Internet “as we know it,” i.e., what we used to call the World Wide Web, has been around for 22 years. For most of that time, the idea that the FCC has anything at all to do with the Internet would have been considered ridiculous (as it still should be). So I don’t think reversing a regulation that was only imposed two years ago is going to DESTROY the Internet.
I recommend all these articles. The next one gives a terrific history lesson, and dramatic real-life examples of how government regulation can impede innovation and (dare we use the word progressives claim ownership of…) “progress.”
Here the article’s close:
“It’s a tragedy,” [technology entrepreneur Bill] Frezza says, “to see people using the same arguments that were used back in 1913 to try to re-regulate the Internet.” If we don’t learn from telecom history, we will be doomed to repeat it.
The following article by Harry Khachatrain contains more details on the technological complexities — I can’t say I followed it all, but key facts were easy to understand:
The topic of net neutrality is one of the hottest debated issues of the modern day, and for good reason. We all use the internet and thus have a natural tendency to weigh in on issues regarding its regulation.
The internet, however, is a complex hierarchical structure riddled with reams of vagaries. Without first understanding them, people shouldn’t attempt to propose legislation.
Unfortunately, from Congressmen to commentators to comedians, this is exactly what we’ve been seeing regarding net neutrality.
Khachatrain asks, “why does Google itself support Net Neutrality?”:
Google is a huge proponent of Net Neutrality. Their website is outfitted with an uppity “We Stand Together. Support a #FreeAndOpen Internet” slogan.
However, Google is privy to the fact that smaller companies, competitors, and start-ups bereft of the resources and capital available to build a global network infrastructure and peer with providers, must instead become customers of higher tier service providers to reach end users.
And what better way to stifle competition in the market, than have these smaller companies subject to a bevy of regulations you’re free of.
Enforcing “net neutrality” does the exact opposite of what its proponents claim. It results in an internet where a handful of large corporations have access to peering agreements with large transit providers (what some people refer to as “the fast lane”), and the rest are subject to far fewer options in terms of services, and even upon growing and gaining market share, will be denied the opportunity to shop around for different ISP plans that suit them best.
For even more! — here are a few more articles:
We should take our deregulation where we can get it.
Here is one key paragraph:
What was sold as economic fairness and a wonderful favor to consumers was actually a sop to industrial giants who were seeking untrammeled access to your wallet and an end to competitive threats to market power.
Under the heading “Neutrality was Deceptive,” he writes:
But when you look closely at the effects, the reality was exactly the opposite. Net neutrality closed down market competition by generally putting government and its corporate backers in charge of deciding who can and cannot play in the market. It erected barriers to entry for upstart firms while hugely subsidizing the largest and most well-heeled content providers.
So what are the costs to the rest of us? It meant no price reductions in internet service. It could mean the opposite. Your bills went up and there was very little competition. It also meant a slowing down in the pace of technological development due to the reduction in competition that followed the imposition of this rule. In other words, it was like all government regulation: most of the costs were unseen, and the benefits were concentrated in the hands of the ruling class.
Here is Maureen Collins also writing at The Federalist, where she also included some important tech-facts, as well as Internet regulatory history):
Giving the federal government control of the Internet wouldn’t bring greater freedom—it would enable bureaucrats and lobbyists to run the show.
Recently, you may have heard the scary news that the Trump administration is trying to destroy the internet. Last week, tech companies like Twitter and Facebook had a “week of action” to promote “Network Neutrality,” an initiative of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which the new Trump-appointed commissioner Ajit Pai is threatening to roll back.
However, like many things these days, this supposed threat is fake news. The name “net neutrality” may sound appealing, commonsensical, or even modern—but the truth is that the FCC has been pushing this initiative for the past decade, despite several Constitutional challenges. When you strip down the internet jargon and flashy activist promotions, net neutrality is nothing more than a New Deal-era power grab. It’s outdated, unfair, and ultimately puts the government in charge of policing web content.
Here is Robert Tracinski writing at The Federalist:
Underneath Mozilla’s blatantly hypocritical posturing about ‘censorship’ and freedom of speech, net neutrality is really just about a money grab.
The Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to turn Internet service providers into regulated utilities, which the Trump administration has just reversed, was never about stopping them from controlling content. It’s actually about money. It’s about who pays for all of that bandwidth we’re using. To be more specific, it’s about trying to make certain unpopular companies (like Comcast) pay for it, so that other, more popular companies (like Netflix) don’t have to.
Finally, Rush Limbaugh talked about net neutrality back in November of last year — here is a part of what he had to say in opposition to it:
The government does not mean cheaper. The government has never meant cheaper. The government doesn’t mean equal. The government doesn’t mean fair. It never has. What the government means, in this context, is reduced services and less competence. It is competition that makes prices lower. It’s competition that enables innovation, better services. And this is a classic example of liberals succeeding in making people believe that corporations and industry are the enemy of people, that they are out to harm people, that they’re out to financially screw people…
And the government is the great fixer, government is the tamer of these wild financial beasts who want to deprive you of your Netflix and your Hulu and whatever else you watch. It’s classic how they have succeeded in making people believe that only the government can fix problems and make things fair. When you look at anything the government has its hands in, it isn’t efficient, it isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t work!
Image credit: www.illinoisfamily.org.