After a couple of years of silence on the issue of net neutrality, the topic has reached the forefront of political discourse in the past month. Since United States President Barack Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt net neutrality and categorize the Internet as a utility, a wave of opposition flooded the matter.
Under the administration’s proposal, the Internet would be classified under Title II of the Telecommunications Act and prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from restricting Internet traffic based on destination, type or source. Moreover, the president’s plan would prohibit ISPs from throttling content, restricting legal content or services, paid prioritization of content or services and produce a greater abundance of transparency.
Here is a statement from the president earlier this month:
"We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online."
This sounds fair and just, right? According to opponents of net neutrality, the legislation gives the federal government an increased amount of control over the Internet. Citing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying and wiretapping surveillance program, those against net neutrality purport this measure would diminish Internet freedom for millions of Americans.
It isn’t just those sitting behind a computer all day opposing net neutrality, some prolific individuals have openly come out against net neutrality. For instance, the charismatic billionaire Mark Cuban defended his position in a recent interview with the Washington Post:
"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Verizon decision [the January, 2014, court order that struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s 2010 passage of net neutrality rules] has created an opportunity for the FCC to introduce more rule-making. They shouldn’t. Things have worked well. There is no better platform in the world to start a new business than the Internet in the United States."
Meanwhile, Europe is mulling over introducing net neutrality rules as officials from the 28-member bloc will debate as to how certain rules should be implemented in the region.
With the continued growth in the size and scope of the U.S. government and other entities across the globe, here are five reasons why everyone who uses the Internet should oppose net neutrality:
1. It Works Fine Now
As Cuban noted above, the Internet works perfectly fine right now. Everyone is browsing any website they like, consumers are able to watch "House of Cards" on Netflix and customers can purchase an electric razor on Amazon. The Internet is in a good state. Of course, there are some issues, but eventually the free market would solve any derelictions affiliated with the Internet.
Furthermore, because of competition between ISPs in the marketplace, they oftentimes do not discriminate against highly-frequented websites.
2. A Dangerous Precedent
We’ve seen when the government gets its hands on something it creates even greater problems. It has been widely known that the federal government spies on its citizens. Now, why should the government be given heightened control over the Internet? Sure, the current or next administration may not have nefarious means, but what about an administration in the next two decades? What if they have unscrupulous ideas? It establishes a dangerous precedent to pass net neutrality.
3. Egalitarianism is Unfair
Net neutrality would prevent companies from charging people who use more to pay higher rates and vice versa. It’s widely expected that wireless carriers will charge customers based on their usage. Why should those who use less pay the same as those who use more? This form of egalitarianism is unfair and would be a failure.
4. A Bureaucratic Internet
The Internet is advanced and innovative, and it persists in this trend every single day. With increased government oversight and regulations the Internet risks being bogged down with endless bureaucracy, red tape and a lack of innovation. Since the president wants the Internet to fall into the 1934 Telecommunications Act, just imagine how archaic the World Wide Web would become - remember, the government is not an innovative creature.
Once again, net neutrality illustrates the cronyist capitalist nature - the relation between big government and big business. It is the colossal Internet corporations, like Google and Netflix, that favor governmental regulation and intervention because it produces barriers to create and enter the market. Indeed, the big guys detest competition.
“Absent net neutrality restrictions, entrepreneurs in their garages would devote significant energies trying to topple Google with the next killer application," Robert E. Litan and Hal J. Singer wrote in the Harvard Business Review.
The last thing anyone needs is to have a governmental kibitzer telling us all what to do on the Internet. Although the government and the scheme’s supporters wrap it up in neat dressing, the fact is, net neutrality is like anything else coming out of government: a sciamachy. In other words, it attempts to address and combat a problem that is pretty much non-existent.