On July 15th, 2017, Being Libertarian published “Why Net Neutrality is a Necessity.” It made the case that net neutrality is a libertarian policy. This is, of course, wrong.
Net neutrality is not a libertarian policy for one simple reason: it violates the non-aggression axiom.
All true libertarians know (and agree) that any and all laws are implemented only by the threat and use of force. The only way the state enforces laws is by threatening you with gun and bullet. The state’s monopoly on violence is what grants it the capability to transgress against the individual and their inherent liberties, and get away with it.
What right is net neutrality aggressing against?
Property rights, of course.
Net neutrality laws act essentially as a price control, limiting what ISPs can charge for the service they provide.
Under net neutrality regulations, Comcast cannot appropriately charge companies like Netflix for the bandwidth they use, even though Netflix and others use so much bandwidth that they create a bottleneck, slowing service for others.
This is analogous to saying FedEx must charge you a flat rate, regardless of how many packages they deliver for you.
Bandwidth is not an unlimited resource. ISPs have to invest in infrastructure in order to meet bandwidth demand and should be able to supply it as they see fit. The government has no business in the mutual dealings between private actors.
If Netflix does not agree with Comcast’s pricing, they can switch to a competitor, which brings me to my second point.
Net neutrality limits competition
Under net neutrality regulations, politics will decide who has access to bandwidth and who doesn’t, and the tradition of the government picking winners and losers will prevail.
The requirements mandated by net neutrality laws will put small ISPs out of business.
ISP’s in rural areas will suffer the most. This is because small ISPs have no choice but to engage in packet discrimination of companies like Netflix. Small ISPs in rural areas have a comparatively small amount of bandwidth they are able to distribute to their customers.
Without limiting the amount of bandwidth available to Netflix in real time, small ISPs servers will crash. They cannot handle the amount of data that Netflix drops into the bandwidth pipe. Without packet discrimination, all other services will be slowed or lost, including phone calls.
Small ISPs, especially rural ones, have limited access to capital, and therefore, cannot afford to expand.
This means they are unable to invest in infrastructure that would make them capable of complying with net neutrality regulations, making it illegal for them to continue operation and effectively putting them out of business.
This is not only harmful for small ISPs, but also for rural citizens, who are more than willing to wait a little longer for a Netflix video to load if it allows them access to the internet.
Large ISPs however, already have the economies of scale and/or retained earnings to comply with Net Neutrality regulations; making the big guy the winner and the small guy the loser. This is nothing new.
Government has always granted monopolies via the means of making it impossible for the up and comers to compete.
This consequence of net neutrality is no mistake. Corporate lobbyists would love to shut down all competitors via the state, it is way cheaper than providing a better product.
The author of “Why Net Neutrality is Essential” has it backwards. Net neutrality is inherently crony capitalism and is just another way for the government to stick their greedy fingers in the dealings of private actors and meddle with the free market.
* Clay Huston is a recent college grad, U.S. Army aviation officer, and the creator and Editor-in-Chief of newsplug.org