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.
Featured image: Neurope.eu
Thomas J. Eckert
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