Net Neutrality is Anything but ‘Neutral’


Net neutrality has found its way back into the headlines this week, with the recently-appointed US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Ajit Pai, initiating proceedings to possibly roll back the measure.

Pai, a longtime critic of the regulation, has proposed a revision to the changes put through in 2015. Like most things that become politicized, however, net neutrality has turned into an extremely polarized debate for both sides of the political aisle. This has inevitably come with the gross exaggeration of facts in order to gain public approval, the worst of which being that it fights to keep a free and open internet.

Before we can discuss the faults surrounding net neutrality, however, we must briefly explain what it does. While the media has been making it sound complicated in its reporting – as we at Being Libertarian have received a plethora of messages asking to explain it – it really is quite simple.

Net neutrality was a reclassification of ISPs (internet service providers) into ‘Title II’ communications groups laid out in the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, specifically the ‘common carriers’ category. This allowed ISPs to be regulated similarly to other types of utilities – gas, electric, water – or in this case, bandwidth offered by ISPs.

So why be skeptical of something we’re told is meant to keep the internet free?

Well, for starters, most plans aimed at freeing a market don’t include the FCC placing 400 pages of new regulations on that market. Likewise, it’s always a safe bet that whatever a bill is sold to the public as, it will undoubtedly do the opposite. Much like we’ve seen with our very ‘Affordable’ Care Act, or the invasive Freedom Act that culminated from the Patriot Act, net neutrality is anything but ‘neutral.’ Instead, it vilified ISPs, claiming that in its absence they would be able to restrict internet access to their customers at a whim. Although they couldn’t recall a single instance of this happening, or provide any reason that ISPs would have for doing that, the FCC shifted the control from the providers over to the government in order to save us from this preposterous threat.

Just like that, net neutrality became another political tool, used to reward select groups at the expense of others.

Which brings us to what really went on.

As streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Google have become more prevalent in recent years, ISPs decided to charge them more for bandwidth than smaller companies, seeing as how they now used up a much larger portion of the providers’ finite supply. Like with most things, those who cost more are usually charged more than those who don’t. For example, a compact car driving down a toll road pays less than an 18-wheeler due to the extra wear and tear caused on the road. The truck would obviously benefit from a mandate requiring that everyone pay the same tolls, where the car would be penalized from the redistributed costs. In the case for net neutrality, the 18-wheeler is the large streaming entities, and they want their bandwidth cost spread around to everyone else using the internet, regardless of how much you use. Hence why net neutrality’s most prominent advocates are Google, Netflix and Microsoft, and its opponents include Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T.

From its inception, and like most government intrusions, net neutrality has been nothing more than bureaucrats vying for control of the market behind closed doors, with politicians packaging up and selling it to the public as being in our best interest. It was never intended to protect the individual from the absurd notion that ISPs would turn on their customers, but rather, was only another drop in the bucket of government corruption.

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Thomas J. Eckert

Thomas J. Eckert is the Managing Editor of Think Liberty and Copy Editor for Being Libertarian. With a passion for politics, he studies economics and history and writes in his spare time on political and economic current events. He is a self-described voluntarist.


  1. you going to have to explain how comcast already tries to throttle its customers when they are not allowed to before you claim they won’t be do it when they are allowed to

    • Here’s the beauty: you don’t have to remain with Comcast, but if the FCC were to not remove what is currently in place, by 2020, they may be your ONLY option.

      • and the reality is they are already the only real option near me or in most of the country… lets not even pretend DSL is high speed if we are going to be having a conversation on this matter

      • I am interested in understanding more on this comment if you don’t mind. Is there anything you can quote that would back it up? It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I am looking for more evidence of this statement so I can use this statement as well. Thanks. I’ll be searching in the mean time.

  2. Wow, the misunderstand of how the internet works her is…a bit surprising in this day and age. Netflix, Youtube, and Google ALREADY pay more for bandwidth as that is how bandwidth works. I don’t get unlimited bandwidth from my ISP it’s throttled to what I pay for. For companies it that same, they have a limited bandwidth and when they want more, they pay for it. Net Neutrality is so that ISP can’t charge me as a consumer more depending on the websites I visit. In your example about the car vs 18 wheeler, the more accurate analog would be that I could be charged more if I drove a Peterbilt rather than a Freightliner in the same road.

  3. Net neutrality simply means applying the same rules that don’t let, say, Verizon, make the phone calls of Comcast customers sound like crap so they’ll switch to Verizon, to the internet.

    Does that involve regulations? Sure. But any article that cites the page count of the regulations, rather than what those regulations actually say, is obviously just trying to scare people while ensuring they don’t actually read the thing they’re being scared about, or think clearly about it.

    Wear and tear? A fiber optic cable is a piece of glass that carries light – photons. Tell me the last time a window in your house wore out because too much light had passed through it. It doesn’t work that way, and shame on anyone suggesting that it does.

  4. While Net Neutrality rules are not perfect, they are necessary to keep the internet in its current free state. Introducing measures to kill Net Neutrality will hurt small businesses online. Imagine having to pay extra in order to use some of your favorite, but perhaps more obscure websites. Not only would it suck for the end-user, but the person who owns that website will immediately begin losing traffic and likely fade in obscurity.

  5. Net neutrality rules are not meant to “free up” the ISP market as this article claims. It’s meant to ensure that traffic is not impeded for any reason. This includes, but is not limited to monetary gain. Without net neutrality rules, it would be possible for an ISP to limit traffic to a political site that doesn’t fall in line with their views. Or, they could limit traffic of a competing VoIP service to promote their own. Ultimately it’s for the protections of the consumers. I recognise that being a Libertarian, you want to ensure that there is no government regulation on ANYTHING. But, as we all know, Left to their own devices, people generally don’t do things that are in the interest of the common good. Rather, they do things that are in their own best interest. This is to help protect us from this type of intrusion.

  6. The overwhelming majority (over 90%) of Americans have only one option for broadband service. Where I live we have one cable company providing nearly all the broadband service to homes (30-200mbps depending what you pay for). The phone company cannot offer anything more than 1mbps DSL which makes it useless. The company has an exclusive deal in the area. The government gave them a monopoly in my area just like it is in most of the US. I couldn’t open a competing cable company in my town. Where monopolies are concerned, and these are monopolies, I have no “freedom to choose”, there is no free market… so applying free market principles to a monopoly is just plain stupid.

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