I’ll start off by saying that I know I am in the minority with this position. I mean, the very small minority. It only takes 5 minutes of research and few scrolls on my Facebook feed to realize that just about everyone wants Net Neutrality. Many of the influential figures that I listen to and respect are for extending the 800 page Net Neutrality law passed in 2015, but I think they, as most of you, are misled on the subject.
Why Large Companies are Scamming You with Net Neutrality
We see large corporations like Netflix, Facebook, and similar internet heavy companies touting the need for Net Neutrality, as if it is something that is crucial to the internet itself. They warn us that internet service providers could throttle or limit those who they disagree with if the law does not exist, yet somehow the internet survived just fine for 30 years without this occurring once and without any Net Neutrality laws on the books.
We need to ask ourselves why these multi-billion dollar companies want a law like this to be passed. Clearly, Facebook and Netflix wouldn’t have their access limited, I mean every internet provider will need to offer their services in order to be even remotely viable to consumers. So what are they afraid of?
Being charged more money. They don’t like the fact that since their websites require an immense amount of bandwidth, they require more resources than a small site you or I would start up. Netflix doesn’t want to have to charge its customer’s more money in order to provide the same service, but with the explosion of its client base, it needs to pay more in order to not be throttled. This is nothing new and makes complete sense. If I start a website today that gets 100 visitors a month, it requires exponentially less physical space and capital to host than if I had 1 million monthly visitors watching high definition videos. Websites aren’t being hosted and sent to your computer in empty space, there are actual physical locations and monthly costs required, as well as limits to how fast they can be provided to your home.
And this is how it should be. Netflix, Facebook, Dropbox and the like SHOULD be throttled if they are not willing to pay more money for their bandwidth and size. There is no reason that smaller websites should be throttled due to the fact that Netflix is hogging all of the lanes, or that internet users should pay more regardless of the fact if they have a Netflix account or not. Netflix should have to pay more for a fast lane since they are the one using the resources (which I remind you, are actually finite). 5 years ago Netflix wasn’t getting half the traffic it is getting now, didn’t have the high definition options, and definitely didn’t have nearly the streaming library size it does today. If that means that they need to charge $20 a month from their subscribers, that is a part of business. Just as there are economies of scale, there are in fact certain diseconomies of scale, and this may be one of them. Without the ability for ISP’s to change pricing based on the particular needs of the company, it will end up hurting everyone else by distributing the costs.
But let’s get back to their main argument. That TimeWarner may not approve of what you are saying or broadcasting and they would have the ability to throttle your website if Net Neutrality were not to exist. A problem that never existed for the 30 years before Net Neutrality laws. You would expect a story to have popped up that caused these laws to go into place, but there isn’t any. The law was created not to prevent this from happening, but to save money for the companies mentioned previously. This prevention of a problem that never occurred was created as a marketing ploy to convince the public that this law is needed. All it takes is a catchy name like “Net Neutrality”, and a few popular figures yearning for it’s needs to prevent “the man” from throttling the little guy, and the public opinion is set. We don’t need the FCC involved in regulating the internet in order to keep in neutral, it was doing just fine without them.
And you know what? I wouldn’t mind if the only law that Net Neutrality said that telecom companies cannot throttle websites or charged them more based on the content they are providing (not the amount of bandwidth required). While they never have, and the law isn’t really needed, if only this part existed in Net Neutrality, it wouldn’t be a terrible addition. I wouldn’t see the need, but I wouldn’t fight against it. This would still require an “innocent until proven guilty” rule, meaning the burden of proof would fall on the website to show they are being throttled based on their political or other beliefs. I wouldn’t doubt if a law similar to this already exists since you cannot discriminate services based on race, religion, gender, etc. A law of this nature wouldn’t require the FCC interference at all, just a court system that allows for websites to try telecom companies if this problem actually were to present itself, which I need to reiterate, never happened in 30 years without Net Neutrality.
But what about Telecom Companies, are they innocent?
Now, this isn’t an argument for internet service providers. They are not existing in a true free market since they are granted government contracts. This does throw a wrench in my point a bit more, but this doesn’t mean we need even more government to regulate. What we need is more competition within the telecom companies. The power that these telecom companies have isn’t because of the lack of government, but because of it. If Time Warner and Comcast were to compete in a more free market, they won’t exist as they do now in 10 years. Just look at all the companies that are dominating the market today and the majority of them didn’t exist 20 years ago. Monopolies cannot exist in a truly free market, there will always be the threat of competition without government interferences and contracts. You may try to think of examples like AT&T or Microsoft, but all it takes is a little longer timeframe than 10 years to realize that new competitors come and take market share as customers demand more options.
I don’t know the specific laws required (or laws that need to be removed) to increase competition amongst telecom companies, but I know that getting the FCC involved in even more industries is not the answer. Remember the next time you hear “keep the internet free and open”, that the internet has always been free, open, and neutral. We don’t need government interference and FCC guidelines to keep it that way.