The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Net Neutrality

Ask someone to look up for just a second from their digital device and answer a question coming from a real-live human being: "Are you in favor of a free and open Internet?" The answer is predictable: "Of course!"

But things get more complicated when you spend some time exploring what "free and open" actually means.

Prior to the previous administration, the Internet, all of the many ISPs who provided access to it, the content providers who provided what everyday users wanted, and the technology that advanced yearly to provide higher speed, better responsiveness, etc. all seemed to get along just fine ... thank you very much! Sure, the 800 lb guerrillas on the nets did overstep their bounds and often bullied the smaller guys, there was constant turnover (remember when AOL was king of the nets?), but in the main, the Internet prospered and more than exceeded its promise.

The Obama administration, Big Intrusive Government advocates all, never encountered an opportunity to regulate that they didn't like. Using the euphemism, "Net Neutrality," they loaded the FCC with advocates that supposedly were there to support the "little guy." After all, everyone should have access to anything they want and at bandwidth they desire, ideally at the same cost. No matter that building high speed infrastructure is expensive.

Now that the FCC has rolled back Obama era regulations, you'd thing that we were on the edge of being plunged back to an era of 2400 baud modems, space invaders, and the Apple Newton. Even worse, reducing regulation of the Internet has lead to predictable hysteria. Here's an actual headline form the left-wing website, The Nation: "Gutting Net Neutrality Is the Trump Administration’s Most Brutal Blow to Democracy Yet."

My goodness. "Brutal blows" to democracy involve the weaponization of government agencies (recent example: The DoJ and FBI) against one party in a presidential campaign. Threats to Democracy involve dishonesty and stonewalling in government. Threats to democracy involve government spying on individuals and the media with no good reason. Threats to democracy involve one political party and its adherents refusing to accept the outcome of a democratic election. But removing a few regulations? That's a threat to democracy? Give me a break!

Net Neutrality is a meaningless political term. The vast majority of "activists" who are now hyperventilating over the demise of regulations have little if any idea what it all really means. Could prices rise over time? Sure, but market competition should keep them in check, just as its done in the mobile device arena. Could bandwidth to consumers be more tightly controlled. Possibly, but that has already occurred under net neutrality regulations. And besides, tech advances will lead to higher and higher bandwidth, so what's "fast" today will be "slow" tomorrow. Could access to some content be discouraged because the ISP (e.g., Comcast) provides its own competitive alternative? Yes, but there are existing anti-trust laws on the books to protect consumers from that.

In essence, we don't want predatory behavior that allows the giant companies to restrict access to content providers who sit outside their stable of in-house content. We don't want giant companies to stifle innovation. But the best solve for those problems is market competition. Anyone who believes that Obama's net neutrality regulation did that is being naive.

When AOL and Compuserve ruled the roost, it looked like innovation would be stifled. It wasn't then, and despite the hysteria coming from Democrats, it won't be now that net neutrality regulations have been eliminated.