By Jonny Watt | USA
Net Neutrality is a set of government regulations which force ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) to treat all types of data packets on the internet the same. Recently the Trump administration, specifically Ajit Pai of the FCC, made plans to repeal Net Neutrality, pushing the issue of “internet freedom” into the front lines of political conversation. Even conservatives and libertarians, staunch believers in the unhampered free market, seem pretty divided on the issue of Net Neutrality, some believing that granting extra power to ISP’s will cause monopolies, which in turn will raise consumer prices. If we look at the technical ramifications of Net Neutrality, as well as economic analysis, we know this to be a falsehood.
Prior to the Obama administration’s decision to introduce Net Neutrality by means of classifying data broadband as a Title II communication service, ISP’s used a technique known as QoS (Quality of Service.) QoS is the technique of throttling speeds to certain data types and websites in order to provide more bandwidth to other types of data. While this sounds maybe like a bad thing on the surface, this was actually greatly beneficial, especially to those living in rural areas with poor internet speeds. All data types will try to use as much bandwidth as possible, but some data types, like voice calls or skype, genuinely need the higher bandwidth in order to work properly, hence the importance of QoS.
Prior to Net Neutrality, ISP’s were able to provide a better internet experience to those in rural areas. After Net Neutrality, companies either had to lose customers in rural areas (thus causing profit loss,) or upgrade their systems, providing more bandwidth to match the effect QoS had (still causing a profit loss.) While the bigger ISP’s could take this regulatory hit, it had a greater effect on smaller businesses, especially those who relied on QoS. Currently, due to the regulatory costs surrounding internet, it is much harder for newer companies and businesses to compete with the massive ISP titans, (At&t, Comcast, etc,) which makes them less subject to the laws of supply and demand, thus letting them charge more for their services with little blowback.
This is why all of these large companies support and lobby for Net Neutrality. Government regulation raises production costs, thus creating a disincentive for new businesses to join the internet market. This causes a dangerous lack of competition. Eliminating Net Neutrality would lower production costs, thus lowering consumer costs, and would let smaller companies get a footing in the internet market by using QoS, forcing large ISP’s to lower their prices to remain competitive.
Another major misconception I see surrounding Net Neutrality, typically from members of the progressive left and the ideologically-inconsistent free-market enthusiasts of the right, is the belief that the internet is an inalienable right. Plainly put, the internet, like healthcare, transportation, etc, is a service, and the ISPs are under no constitutional or moral obligations to offer these services.
The only reason they are supplying these services is a business obligation. As a consumer, we are simply buying a service that ISPs are selling, and Net Neutrality just limits the market for transactions we can make. In order to be an ideologically-consistent free market capitalist, you have to be against Net Neutrality and recognize the havoc it causes for the internet market.
In conclusion, while Net Neutrality may seem like a good idea on the surface, the detrimental technological and economic ramifications of this regulation are too severe to be overlooked. With the abolition of Net Neutrality, consumers and small businesses alike would benefit greatly, and there would be a genuine free market, letting competition thrive. Net Neutrality is a government invasion of freedom and competition pushed by crony capitalism and misinformation.