Monday, November 27, 2017

Defining Net Neutrality

This past week net neutrality made its way into headlines—and panicked Facebook posts. It is because the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Trump, has decided to undo the net neutrality rules Obama instigated in 2015.
internet cyber cabling, image from here

From the panic, you would think the return to what the internet always was before the recent interference was going to deprive all Americans of the freedom to google.

So I thought maybe we should review what’s going on, to lower the panic level.

As I’ve written before (even about this very topic), there’s a Spherical Model axiom:

If the government wants to implement something beyond the proper role of government, not only will government fail to achieve the stated goal; it will likely do exactly opposite of the stated goal.
So, if the government is trying to make the internet neutral, you can be pretty sure it will not make the internet neutral, if that ever was the problem. It will interfere, and the interference is likely to favor some and disadvantage others.

The panic seems to be saying that we can’t possibly live without government regulation of the internet—even though the internet flourished unhindered, with innovation after innovation, for it’s first several decades, up until Obama's year or so in office.

I don’t really understand the reason for the panic (other than media fear mongering). But I can be pretty certain that turning over something to five government officials is not a good way to decide what any free person or company can be permitted to do on the internet. Remember, the administration that imposed net neutrality is the same administration that weaponized the IRS against non-profits that promoted ideas it didn’t approve of. 

To repeat something I’ve said before (again, about this very topic), regulation is one of those words that government has stretched beyond recognition:

In dictionary world, like the one our founders live in, the word “regulation” means to make regular—to make sure something can happen regularly, without blocks or interference. That’s what the founders meant by regulation interstate commerce.
But in today’s government, regulation means something else: governmental power to decide when, how, and whether something can happen. It’s arguable that all government regulation prevents, rather than provides, regularity of something happening.
About net neutrality, Senator Cruz has long spoken up. I believe it was during the presidential campaign that he said this:

"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the internet; the internet should not operate at the speed of government.
Just as the so-called Affordable Care Act leads to less care at greater costs, you can be sure so-called net neutrality leads to less internet freedom, not more of the freedom we expect of our free-market internet.

The supposed problem has to do with various internet service providers providing streaming services. The net neutrality requires them to be neutral about providing services at the same rates and speeds, no matter how much bandwidth is required. They are not allowed to provide greater speeds for a higher price to those willing to pay for the better service.

Instead, those five regulators sitting in faraway Washington decide that the greater service must be provided at the same cost, regardless of how illogical or impossible it is to do so.

The end result is that the market is not allowed to work out the issues, and that means there is no profit incentive to improve service or options in areas where little choice is currently available.
This Being Libertarian piece gives some explanation:

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.
Senator Ted Cruz
Image from Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo, found here
As Senator Cruz and Michael O'Rielly explained this week:

The internet has changed how we communicate, engage in commerce and live our lives. It not only provides a platform that can be used to promote free speech, but serves as a great equalizer when it comes to jobs and opportunity by dramatically reducing the barriers of entry for anyone with a new idea and broadband connection.
Unfortunately, because the nature of government power is to control, tax and regulate, there will always be government officials who will seek to implement policies to increase these inherent powers. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Obama administration made the decision to set aside decades of bipartisan agreement and enact a radical proposal that reclassified the internet as a regulated public utility. The Obama-era regulations give federal bureaucrats new authority to regulate pricing and terms of service and eventually even collect billions in new taxes.
This policy not only threatens investment across the United States but seeks to force companies of all sizes to ask the government for prior approval of business decisions. The end result is less broadband, less innovation and less freedom for the American consumer.
Thankfully, relief will soon be on the way, as the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai seeks to repeal the so-called Open Internet Order and return the internet to its original classification as an information service, which allowed the internet to flourish.
The repeal of the order is simple enough to accomplish. But the panic may lead to additional interference. Senator Cruz further explains the next challenge:

But, the restoration of internet freedom may be short-lived, as there are already scores of politicians and state and local regulators who have indicated an interest in replicating the Obama administration’s fatally flawed rules at the state and local level. As harmful as the FCC’s rules have been for broadband investment and innovation, replacing such rules with a patchwork of state and local requirements would have an even more detrimental effect on the internet.
Allowing the Obama administration’s dangerous policy to infest the internet through state and local government mandates serves no purpose other than to stifle America’s entrepreneurial spirit, frustrate innovation, and block economic opportunity.
The internet has been a great example of how freedom and free market lead to thriving. Government regulation didn’t lead to all the innovation and online information and marketing; staying out of the way except to protect life, liberty, and property allowed that.

Let’s quickly get back to this digital experiment in freedom and prosperity.

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