It has often been well stated that there are three sides to most arguments: Your side, my side, and the truth. Such seems to be the case in the latest news concerning “Net Neutrality.” It is considered by some to be a veritable godsend that will keep Internet Service providers, (ISP’s) from throttling, or controlling the flow of information online. Hailed as a blow for freedom, those who support the latest ruling see it as the “first amendment” for the internet, that all information, data, or whatever you call it, shall be treated as equal.
Others see Net Neutrality as the exact opposite, a blow to innovation and entrepreneurship, keeping the internet just the way it is and making it nigh impossible for fresh start-up companies to take root. Many also see it as government intrusion over, and regulation of, private businesses. Either way you look at it, the decisions made by the White House and the Federal Communications Commission are sparking widespread debate across the country.
Ah, but now for that pesky third viewpoint. You know the one. It’s the one that, as soon as it’s brought up, gets drowned in a unified chorus of opposition. That polarizing thought, that manages to unit two seemingly irreconcilable camps, not in agreement, but unbridled hatred.
Here’s the thing. People, generally, don’t ask questions anymore. Not real ones anyway. In fact the largest, most oft repeated question in the world today is simply this: “What’s in it for me?” There is no concern for our neighbor, our posterity, or even our own integrity. So long as something benefits us, or seems to, we’re onboard. And so it is, I believe, with this issue of “Net Neutrality.”
People are upset because they see ISP’s “controlling” the flow of information online. But what these people don’t realize is that content providers are trying to put heavier traffic onto a system that wasn’t designed for it. In order to keep up with demands ISP’s are having to build and maintain stronger, and better bridges to handle the increased load.
Here’s the problem. The content providers didn’t build, or have to maintain the “roads” they are using, and think ISP’s should have to provide them with the needed bandwidth and infrastructure at no extra cost to themselves. You know, the ones who are actually using the roadways more.
Allow me to shore up this analogy. I have several furniture trucks I want to use to move goods. You own the loading docks. Suddenly, you notice that I’m carrying bigger, heavier, and more furniture than others. Now what would your reaction be if I told you I expect you to maintain a larger workforce and run longer days in order to move my goods? Wouldn’t you tell me you expect me to pay more for better service?
If you decided to stop moving my goods, would you be the “evil” bad guy controlling the flow of furniture in the area? I don’t think so. Obviously, if I wanted to move more goods than my competition, I should expect to pay more for the service you provide. However, many content providers don’t see it that way, and think all content providers should only have to pay one rate, and still have the same delivery speed as their competition. So now, the rates will be kept high for faster speeds, and competition will fail before it begins.
Meanwhile, power will shift to the content providers, who will still need to figure out how the networks are going to handle the load. Both the infrastructure and bandwidth will still need to be in place to handle the load, and somebody is going to have to pay for it. In keeping with the analogy, a larger loading crew and extra pay is still going to be necessary. That cost will now be passed off to the ISP’s who will pass it on to….. who? The government says it will be free. However, I guarantee you that in this case “free” means taxpayer subsidized. It’s simply an economic reality. Somebody is going to have to pay the piper somewhere down the line.
However, stay tuned for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, because that’s not all. There is another factor in this equation, that of government interest. Why is the White House concerned with, what is essentially, a market issue?
Ostensibly, because otherwise people won’t have access to the internet that they “need,” or “deserve,” and poor content providers would be stuck, having to pay higher rates, or suffering slower service for their customers. This would, of course, be a terrible injustice, and since the market can’t regulate itself, obviously the great and benevolent government should step in.
But let’s slow down the pony, and back up the wagon. First of all, it has always been a favorite claim of politicians that the free market can’t regulate itself. However, let’s step back and take a closer look at the “failed” free market of the internet. First of all, the market hasn’t failed. Yes there may have been some dust-ups and it is more than likely that some ISP’s may have gone for a major power-grab at some point, but that’s where competition comes into play. The internet has done fine on its own, and remarkable progress has been made already in the ability of both network and content providers to operate within the current framework.
Second of all, if we can’t trust the engineers and other people who work with the system on a daily basis to be able to work on the system, why should we trust a bunch of career politicians to operate it? Political winds ebb and flow, and today’s liberal politician may no longer be such a fan of the regulations being put in place today, if a republican administration gets ahold of the reigns.
However, the biggest question of all is still this: Why do politicians want in on this? Am I suddenly to believe that they don’t have their own interests at heart? Off the top of my head, it would certainly appear that the recent ruling is going to take power away from the free market, and drop it squarely in the hands of our beloved government officials. Yes, ISP’s will be blocked from regulating the market based on notions such as “supply and demand” or to put it more bluntly, the age old principle of “You get what you pay for.”
But the fact remains that Content providers will still be moving the same amount of data through the networks, and someone is going to have to account for that. Someone is still going to have to restrict, throttle, or even block some data somewhere along the line. And who better to decide what data gets restricted better than your friendly neighborhood government.
To be clear, this is the same government that decided to regulate banking, and gave us the Federal Reserve. What’s that called again when one organization is in control of an entire industry? Oh yeah, that’s a monopoly. Hmmmmm…… Not to mention that this is the same government which gave us the FDA, which has done not one thing to combat the amount of strange chemicals and other junk we put into our bodies. But they sure can fight farmer Joe for wanting to sell, or even give away, milk straight from his cows. (BTW, I’m not against junk food or cramming garbage down your pie hole if you so choose. I’m against a government organization which purports to be for the good of the people, but does nothing to combat real health issues, yet tells individuals that they can’t choose what to consume.)
So, to sum up, yes for a while your streaming services might improve, but in the long run somebody will pay more for it. Just look at the mandated healthcare fiasco. Mandatory coverage for all is already flat ruining actual coverage. People are being forced to do what some people see as “right” yet the system has not improved. People can’t see some doctors at all, others have to wait extremely long to even see a doctor, and people still have to pay huge sums out of pocket.
If, on the other hand, we were to cut out the middle man, like an insurance company, the market would right itself. The only reason a doctor can charge you hundreds for a 20 minute visit, is because insurance companies will pay such an outrageous fee. If that middleman is eliminated two things would happen.
First, responsible people would be able to save thousands of dollars, which they could put towards their own medical care on an as needed basis. As it stands currently, folks pay hundreds each month for services they don’t use, only to have to pay even more out of pocket when they do need care, because insurance companies won’t pay but a small portion of the bill. So imagine allowing an individual access to all the money he pays to his insurance company. You might say “Well, we don’t know for sure he’ll save it for medical expenses.” You’re right, we don’t. But I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that most responsible people would set aside the money. Most successful people have figured out the value of savings.
Second, medical care costs would plummet, now becoming affordable. No doctor in his right mind would charge a patient hundreds of dollars for a half hour visit, because he would lose all his patients to another doctor providing reasonable service. But when the government steps in and says “Yeah, we’ll pay that crazy amount of money,” doctors are all too happy to ramp up their costs. Same thing goes for the internet.
Finally, while some expect the government to be fair and impartial, most folks who’ve seen it in action know well enough otherwise. Ultimately, regulatory power will pass to the hands of career politicians, who maybe don’t like that one site that exposes their backroom dealings. Or hey, you know, that one video promotes a thought process we (government) don’t like. Let’s cut back on the sites who post it, so people can’t access it without waiting for a 5 hour buffer.
The point is, legislation such as this often has far reaching, unintended, consequences. And potentially throwing away freedom just to get faster download times and no interruptions on my video streaming service, seems pretty dumb.