For months, it seemed nearly every media figure was in hysterics over the impending repeal of net neutrality. Then, net neutrality was repealed… and nothing much changed. So what exactly is net neutrality, and why do so many people have such strong opinions about something they don’t understand? Jon Gabriel, editor-in-chief of Ricochet.com cuts through the hysteria to bring you the facts.
Net Neutrality means that the government will—one day—control the internet.
“Wait a second!” I can you hear you saying. “That sounds bad.” But almost everyone you know says that Net Neutrality is good. Doesn’t “neutral” mean that no one is picking winners and losers, that everyone is equal?
Maybe according to the dictionary, but not according to the people behind the Net Neutrality movement. For them, “neutral” means the government regulates the internet like a public utility—and that means bureaucrats making key decisions about how the internet is run.
And that’s exactly what happened in 2015.
The Federal Communications Commission—or FCC—under the Obama Administration, came up with Net Neutrality rules and regulations and imposed them on consumers. No open hearings—they just did it.
Here’s what they said: Internet Service Providers, or ISPs—AT&T, Verizon, and other companies that lay the cable that goes to your house—are basically monopolies like your typical utility company. To prevent abuse of this position, Net Neutrality rules prohibited them from charging websites different prices no matter how much or how little bandwidth they use.
But this is exactly the opposite of what utilities are allowed to do. Electricity providers, for instance, are allowed to create pricing tiers—the more you use, the higher the price goes. If you use significantly more power than your neighbor, you pay more for the privilege.
“Net Neutrality” forces ISPs to charge all users the same price no matter how much data they send through the internet.
It’s a bad idea. Here’s why:
The internet consists of a physical infrastructure of cable and phone lines that carry the data—we call it “bandwidth.” But of course, there’s a limit to how much data it can carry. In 2014, just two companies, Netflix and Google (which owns YouTube), consumed more than 52% of the total bandwidth of the entire internet. All those data-heavy movies and videos clog up the “pipe.”
Read more: Prager University