A lot of techies and millennial types are going apoplectic over the FCC’s current move to roll back provisions for Net Neutrality adopted under Obama. A lot of people I know who are technically literate consider it blasphemy to be against Net Neutrality.
I guess then I am a blasphemer.
In principle I rarely support increasing the scope and power of government unless someone can show a large, unambiguous, and clear benefit of government regulation. There are good arguments for regulation and government oversight, sometimes. One example of where government regulation clearly fits is in assuring that large enterprises be 100% responsible for cleaning up the messes they make instead of passing the buck to taxpayers which is clearly a subsidy for those enterprises.
A lot of the arguments I hear for Net Neutrality come down to something like “big powerful corporations controlling access to the Internet will block access to those sites they don’t like.” So I guess the Koch brothers are scheming to buy large ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and block access to Left leaning websites?
In reality if you want to see real examples of businesses discriminating against a particular point of view you don’t have to look much further than Google, Facebook, and Apple, all heavily Left leaning corporations heavily in favor of Net Neutrality.
Josh Steimle made a lot of good points in Forbes back in 2014 when Net Neutrality was first being discussed. He wrote that:
“I don’t like how much power the telecoms have. But the reason they’re big and powerful isn’t because there is a lack of government regulation, but because of it. Government regulations are written by large corporate interests which collude with officials in government. The image of government being full of people on a mission to protect the little guy from predatory corporate behemoths is an illusion fostered by politicians and corporate interests alike. Many, if not most, government regulations are the product of crony capitalism designed to prevent small entrepreneurs from becoming real threats to large corporations.”
In the long run more regulation more often than not ends up favoring the largest corporations which can most easily deal with the red tape (and then pass the cost on to you and other taxpayers). Josh Steimle goes on to say that:
“Free speech cannot exist without privacy, and the U.S. government has been shown to be unworthy of guarding the privacy of its citizens. Only the latest revelation of many, Glenn Greenwald’s new book No Place To Hide reveals that the U.S. government tampers with Internet routers during the manufacturing process to aid its spying programs. Is this the organization we trust to take even more control of the Internet?”
We can with some version of Net Neutrality guarantee some version of Internet service that some perceive as “fair,” but I prefer the idea of competition. We don’t know what clever people will come up with in the future if we regulate the opportunity out of existence today.
The Left often views everything as a zero-sum game where there is only so much to go around and everyone is trying to get the biggest share of the pie. The other point of view held by proponents of free markets is that we need to keep on building bigger pies so there are ever growing opportunities and resources for everyone (and yes, the pie is still not evenly distributed).
Communism and Socialism are in effect zero-sum games. Capitalism, whatever the practical faults in its historical implementations, is a non-zero-sum game dedicated to building bigger and better pies. Net Neutrality is the group-think of zero-sum thinking.
The Internet came about originally from a government project called ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) but it soon spread to the private sector with explosive results in information sharing (and stealing) that heralded in the modern Information Age. The world changed. It would have changed whether or not the government started out with a Defense Department project we now call the Internet. It would have changed because it was time for it. Period.
The major principle was freedom, a “Wild West” of opportunities. What some people don’t seem to understand too well today is freedom also applies to the businesses that work and scheme to bring the Information Age into our homes and businesses. We can shackle them with a mantle of government regulation today to try to preserve what we think is good about the Internet today, but we sacrifice at the same time the opportunities for innovation that originally birthed the Internet.
If we can keep government hands off the Internet, at least as much as possible, then some truly clever folks are going to create things no one has yet imagined.