The Conservative Case for Net Neutrality
UPDATE: In support of the July 12th Battle For The Net, I am rerunning this post from 3 years ago to remind people what Net Neutrality is really all about. For more info on the protest, go here: https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12/
To write the FCC: https://dearfcc.org/
I am completely baffled at the conservatives here in America’s ability to get the Net Neutrality debate ass backwards. Every statement from both conservative and libertarian sources gets it completely wrong.
Without Net Neutrality, government sanctioned monopolies will have the right to levy their own taxes on successful private businesses.
I have posted this question to any politicians who are opposed to net neutrality: “So you are in favor of government sanctioned monopolies levying new taxes on successful businesses?” I have yet to hear back from any of them.
The anti-net neutral argument made in practically every article I posted is that “Netflix takes up 33% of the internet bandwidth, so it is only fair that they pay ISPs to help support their traffic.”
Any good Conservative should see the fallacy of that argument, and every tech savvy person should also. So what if Netflix uses 33% of the bandwidth? They are providing a service people like and are willing to pay for as an added feature of their internet service. Not only that, they are spending millions to make it easier for ISPs to handle their traffic by reducing the load on long distance lines, but that has not stopped ISPs demand for additional fees.
If ISPs levy additional fees on Netflix, then Netflix will just pass it on down to the consumer, and that is why it is a consumer issue.
Is that not the same argument raised by every anti-tax conservative against raising taxes on businesses?
And what about the 30 or so other streaming services that show up on my Apple TV? If Netflix is forced out by exorbitant fees, then that 33% bandwidth will just be divided up by other services, and then will ISPs go after them for fees too, even though they use significantly lower bandwidth?
What percentage of bandwidth is too much? At what level is charging them fair?
Then there is the future. That 33% is destined to fall even if Netflix continues to grow. By 2020 Netflix may only represent 10% of the bandwidth. Should ISPs continue to charge a premium? What about the hundred or so Netflix like services that haven’t even started up yet but will eventually? Can they compete if they have to pay fees to all the ISPs like Netflix? So much for competition in the market place.
Eventually the internet will grow so big that it will be able to easily support hundreds of Netflixes, and then the “Netflix is too big” argument will go out the window, and yet like all good taxes, the high bandwidth fees will continue to levied costing consumers and internet based corporations billions which could have been paid to salaried employees.
For the future of the internet, and I have been working in the internet field for 20 years so I know what I am talking about, there are ONLY two options:
1. Get rid of the government sanctioned monopolies and force ISPs to open their lines to competitors.
2. Get rid of their right to levy their own taxes on internet based companies, aka make them title II utilities like telephone and electric companies.
1. is not going to happen any time soon, but 2 could happen tomorrow if the FCC decides to.
What about fears of government regulation of the internet? That is a completely separate issue apart from Net Neutrality, it is just as likely to happen if ISPs become utilities or not. It is a completely separate battle, and yet the GOP backed by ISP money is using the confusion to claim they are the same battle, which is why there is so much misinformation on the right.
Why can’t we just leave ISP’s alone at their word that they won’t violate Net Neutrality? Because they already have. Twice. And they did it by purposely slowing down traffic. Net Neutrality will regulate these kinds of actions. Without net neutrality guarantees, ISPs could slow or completely block internet sites they don’t like, or ask consumers to pay for access to their favorite sites. This has not happened, but it is perfectly legal for them to do so. This is why Net Neutrality is also important to free speech.
ISP’s say Title II would lower their incentive to improve the internet, AT&T says they will not expand gigabit services until the issue has been decided. Is this true? AT&T would not stop expanding if the gigabit service was selling well in Austin, but it seems most consumers are happy with the service they got. I’m guessing AT&T has already decided to slow down expansion for fiscal reasons, but decided to make a political issue out of it.
The truth is their political issue seems to have backfired. It only points out how the lack of competition is harming the availability of really fast internet in the US. It is why US is in 27th place in internet speed.
The conservative position should be: We need competition so we don’t need to implement Net Neutrality rules. But, the GOP politicians don’t seem to even mention that option. Until we get real competition, Net Neutrality is our best bet as consumers to insure free speech and consumer protection.