My position on Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality means that if I send you a packet of data on the Internet, it will flow to you freely. It will not be tampered with along the way by our Internet Service Providers, or any in between. It will not be blocked, throttled, redirected or manipulated in any way. The end-to-end nature of the Internet will be respected by both of our service providers. The network, the Internet, facilitates the movement of the traffic and remains neutral with respect to destination. You get the speed you pay for, for as long as your service provider can guarantee it.
You will hear some claim that the FCC attempt to provide rules for Net Neutrality is regulation. In the sense that a regulation is a rule, then yes, Net Neutrality is a regulation. If you examine deeper though, you will see that Net Neutrality is a single rule that says that there will be no commercial regulations placed upon the Internet by corporations. It is an anti-regulation regulation.
Think of it this way. Net Neutrality is a regulation in the same way that the First Amendment is a regulation. It seeks to preserve our freedom, yours and mine, in this case in how we use the Internet. Net Neutrality seeks to prevent those who own the wires, from dictating the behavior of traffic through their own restrictions.
Whenever you hear someone state that Net Neutrality is the government regulating the Internet, ask them “In what way?” Chances are they have no idea.
Why Net Neutrality?
Concerning democracy alone, the Internet is quite possibly the single most important development of the twentieth century. It is on track to becoming even more important in the twenty-first. No other technology has done more in my lifetime to enable the average human being.
The Internet has grown from relatively humble origins to a vast network of networks. It spans the globe, facilitates all sorts of media delivery, houses incalculable quantities of storage, and provides for the exchange of extraordinary amounts of information.
So much of the intellectual and creative production of humanity is contained within the Internet that I sometimes wonder if it qualifies as a separate dimension. In my humble opinion, the Internet has become a national resource, if not treasure. On second thought, forgive my arrogance. It is in fact, an international resource.
The Internet should not be regarded as the property of broadband service providers, mobile communications providers, content providers and especially governments. The Internet has become the preferred means by which not just the people of the United States, but the people of earth communicate, without the noise of governments or corporations intervening. It is a place with no borders. It is a place where I choose which ideas I wish to explore, with whom I wish to associate, and which products and/or services I wish to consume. It is a virtual landscape of information, entertainment, and the peripatetic souls that live there. The only limits are my intelligence, curiosity, tolerance, and choice.
It is because of the incomprehensible value of the Internet, that I am in favor of true Net Neutrality. Without Net Neutrality, an extremely small group of corporations, i.e. select individuals, will have the ability to exercise ownership like control over the Internet. Without Net Neutrality the Comcasts, Time Warners, AT&T’s and Verizons of the world will determine which services I use or even have access to.
Quite frankly I am bewildered as to how anyone can oppose giving the FCC responsibility to monitor and enforce Net Neutrality, when doing so effectively grants devastating Internet control to noncompetitive corporate interests. It would seem logical, if you fear that the FCC is going to overstep the boundaries of Net Neutrality and see to further regulate the Internet, to install guarantees against this, not block Net Neutrality.
At the very least, the FCC is supposed to represent us, the people. Something I fear our political representatives have long forgotten, and I can assure you without the shadow of a doubt that the interests of we the people are not topping the agendas of broadband carriers!
I have heard the arguments against Net Neutrality. After consideration, I contend that people who are against Net Neutrality simply do not understand it and worse, do not understand what is at stake. I have also observed that many conservatives who speak against Net Neutrality are seeing the issue through what I can only describe as ideologically obscured anti-Obama colored glasses.
It is the general objection to heavy handed government regulation that causes some of us to naturally reject what we perceive as FCC interference. While I normally agree with such sentiments, ironically in this case it is Net Neutrality that keeps the Internet open and unobstructed. It is the one acceptable boundary in a world built for no boundaries.
I believe that more often than not, government regulation goes too far. I am a staunch proponent of the free market. I believe that the government’s primary responsibility is making sure there is a level playing field. Without Net Neutrality, the Internet, the most fertile field around, will be anything but level.
Opponents argue that they do not wish to favor edge services over core services, yet without Net Neutrality, they are clearly favoring core services. Opponents argue that they want innovation and investment at the “edge and core of the Internet.” Without Net Neutrality, investment is less likely at the edge and unnecessary, even undesirable at the core.
Without Net Neutrality investments in services like FaceBook or Netflix or iTunes will be less probable due to the uncertainty of how the core services, i.e. carriers, will react to success.
If I create a service on the Internet and it becomes extremely popular, without Net Neutrality there is nothing to prevent service providers from copying my service, and coercing their captive clients to use their version via throttling, blocking, and extra charges.
They of course will argue that they are exercising their right to do as they please with their infrastructure, as well as making sure their network performance is properly managed. The result will be increased profits for them while the growth and success of my service will be highly questionable.
Core service innovation will be less likely because there is no competition, and no incentive to provide better service. We the consumers are locked in, and will be forced to pay more for less. Core service providers don’t have to contend with one another so maintaining scarcity of bandwidth becomes more profitable than investing in more infrastructure and generating more bandwidth. Without Net Neutrality, core service providers effectively become the OPEC of bandwidth. They become an oligopoly, essentially an uncontested and amoral traffic manipulating cartel.
If you agree with me that the Internet is unimaginably important to the future of commerce, education, entertainment, health, life in general and especially (just ask the people of Egypt), democracy, then you must act to prevent the blocking of the FCC Net Neutrality rules. If the FCC is blocked at this nascent point a devolution of the Internet as we know it will occur. You can start here to gain information on what you can do.
The growth and flow of communications and commerce on the Internet have been phenomenal to say the least. Unfortunately without Net Neutrality there is every reason to assume this expanding ubiquity will be arrested to promote the profits of only one segment of the Internet, i.e. the so called core services. The success or failure of edge services, such as Google or NetFlix will be at the whim of the core services, and ultimately the value of the Internet for the people you represent will significantly diminish. What we will be left with will look no better than the balkanized, pre-packaged, premium channeled, tiered, rights managed mess that is pay television.
Obviously core service providers have to be able to effectively manage traffic on their networks. Rationally this would mean increasing capacity as needed, however without Net Neutrality it will mean creating punitive and anti-competitive control measures to enforce preferred behavior. Service providers should control their networks, but there must be some kind of oversight by those who protect the interests of the public. Perhaps it is time to bring American competition law into the twenty-first century. Simply abandoning us to face the interests of powerful service providers with no representation or recourse is most definitely wrong.