Most people don’t know what net neutrality is. Those that do, think it’s a vital link between freedom and the end of the world.
The reality is, net neutrality is another front for giving the government more power and lobbyists greater influence over our society.
Not that long ago, I would have disagreed. I was a proponent of net neutrality. Back in 2012, I cheered with the rest of the world when potentially dangerous bills SOPA and PIPA were axed, all because Wikipedia went black for a day.
At the time, there were serious concerns that the government was going to give Internet Service Providers unprecedented power to control what you see. They might have been able to limit your access to websites or services by throttling your speed or even outright blocking them. You could have been looking at a situation where you had access to some sites, but had to pay a premium to see others.
Scary stuff, right? I mean, if a private business you choose to use starts to censor your content, where would it end!?
Wikipedia and other sites were able to whip enough people up into a frenzy that SOPA and PIPA died a swift death. After many calls and emails to congressmen, lawmakers deemed the duo of bills toxic and decided not to vote on them. The real question was why they got so far. Then President Obama, who vowed to protect net neutrality, never promised a veto threat, which would have ended the issue immediately.
The aftermath of this turn of events was the FCC trying to preserve the concept of net neutrality, though many criticized their rules were watered-down and might not do much to help.
Jump forward to this year. President Trump is in office. The libtards of the country are looking for new fronts to oppose him. The more tech savvy realize that the president has appointed a republican, pro-business chairman to the FCC. A man who does not like net neutrality.
Oh my God! The sky is falling! The internet is going to die in a fire of blood and misery! At least that’s what some people are thinking.
The new republican controlled FCC are poised to repeal the massive net neutrality rules passed in 2015, a 400-page document so controversial even liberals were worried about it. From back then:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to approve a wildly controversial Net Neutrality policy that will regulate and tax the Internet intensely, much like the old AT&T telephone monopoly. To help secure political support, Chairman Tom Wheeler made last-minute revisions at the request of Google, according to Politico‘s sources at the Commission.
Congress, conservatives and even liberals who were once advocates for Net Neutrality are frantic over rumors and innuendos about what secret language might be in the most far-reaching and intrusive regulatory action of the 21st century. (Breitbart, Feb 2015)
It’s all getting a bit confusing, if you ask me. Why all the rules? Why can’t we just keep things the way they are, right?
The problem is, things are never kept the way they are. Change is inevitable. And when you’re talking about the most disruptive form of communication in the last 1000 years, there are going to be forces that want to destroy it.
Or at least, regulate it to the point that it’s well under their thumb.
You see, the Internet has been a growing beast. In the early 90’s we didn’t know just how powerful it would become. Slow dial-up speeds ensured that the Internet was just a hobby. Something you did when you weren’t expecting a phone call (and if you did get a call, you were knocked off).
The Internet was a place for weirdos and nerds to play games and download pornography. “Normal” people read newspapers, watched TV, listened to the radio, shopped at malls, and socialized at bars. They only went online to read a few emails, most of which were spam.
My, how the world’s changed.
By the early 2000’s it was obvious that the Internet was a force to be reckoned with. It had already destroyed the music industry. People were downloading music, legally or otherwise, making CD shops and even radio obsolete. Increased Internet speeds made watching videos even easier. TV was already feeling the pain, as more people would rather watch silly cat videos on YouTube than NBC’s primetime lineup. In only a few more years, this thing called Netflix would appear.
But still, the old guard ignored it. Most tech-aware people knew the Internet would destroy other industries, like publishing and news. The establishment, however, laughed it off. As Nick Bilton explained:
I also felt the raindrop moment firsthand when I began working at The New York Times, in the early 2000s. Back then, the newspaper’s Web site was treated like a vagrant, banished to a separate building blocks away from the paper’s newsroom on West 43rd Street. Up-and-coming blogs—Gizmodo, Instapundit, and Daily Kos, which were setting the stage for bigger and more advanced entities, such as Business Insider and BuzzFeed—were simultaneously springing up across the country. Yet they were largely ignored by the Times as well as by editors and publishers at other news outlets. More often than not, tech-related advances—including e-readers and free online blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Tumblr—were laughed at as drivel by the entire industry, just as Napster had been years earlier. (Vanity Fair)
It may seem crazy to my younger readers how people in 2000 could laugh off the Internet. But even today there are people who underestimate its power.
As time marched on, WiFi and mobile advances made the Internet even more universal. We were no longer limited to just using the Internet in our offices or home computers. The Internet is now everywhere.
This has led to the explosion of social media and the creation of the democratization of news and information. We thought we had a Free Press in the past, but it was only a monopoly of a select few. Today, with the impact of 100,000+ news and blog sites, old standards like the New York Times mean nothing.
So what does this mean about net neutrality? It means powerful forces—in the form of corporations and government—desperately want to clamp a lid down on this technology. In a matter of 20-odd years the Internet has evolved in rapidly, seemingly unpredictable ways. It was the biggest factor in getting Donald Trump elected. What damage could it do to the status quo in years to come?
Imagine a world where Hollywood isn’t the biggest name in showbusiness. Where record labels and award ceremonies were a thing of the past. Where things like CNN and Fox News were quaint relics of a bygone era, like the telegraph or Pony Express. Where—gasp—elitists couldn’t control everything we thought or did, because they didn’t have their hands on the reins of information!
The “Fight For the Future” is a ruse to manipulate young people. Groups funding powerful lobbyists want you to think that the evil government is going to let evil companies throttle your Internet. But what they don’t tell you is the people “on your side” are evil companies. Just from another industry.
In the run-up to the July 12 online “Battle for the Net” to save Net Neutrality regulations from repeal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Republican majority, Breitbart News reported the potential for the protest to morph into a 24-hour rage by viral organizations and criminal “hacktivist” wolf-packs.
But 18 hours into the heavily-promoted online rebellion funded by the Washington, D.C. corporate lobbyists for Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Google, AT&T, Twitter, Netflix, Reddit, Mozilla, PornHub, Spotify, and Reddit, have not been able to prod the 100,000 interest groups they supposedly signed up to generate much in the way of rage. (Breitbart)
You may hate Verizon or Comcast. But do you really trust Amazon and Google? They are two sides of the same coin. They are large companies fighting for their best interests, not yours.
All the websites that pushed for net neutrality on July 12—an event you largely ignored—don’t care about free speech or your rights. They only care about protecting their business model. But business models change and so does technology.
For the government to wade into regulating how you access the Internet, how fast it should be, or what you can see, would be a disaster. Almost as bad as letting them regulate health care. Whenever the government tries to “fix” a problem, they tend to make it worse.
Why? Because they are messing with the natural progression of the free market. It’s like if a scientist tried to interfere with a natural ecosystem by introducing a new species of animal. That never works out.
Just look at how good the government is at set minimum wage standards. San Diego is losing hundreds of businesses. In Seattle, workers are earning thousands less. Businesses in Los Angeles are leaving the state.
And we want these dummies getting their fingers in the Internet?
But you might be screaming about the greediness of ISP’s and how they want to nickel and dime us into oblivion. You’re probably worried that you’ll have to pay extra to use Netflix, or Facebook. It will be the end of civilization.
And that might be true. If the draconian regulations that prop up net neutrality are repealed, some companies will want to throttle your access, or set up the dreaded “fast and slow” lanes.
That will suck and it might frustrate some people. But here’s the silver lining: you can cancel your service.
Nobody is forcing you to pay Comcast or Verizon hundreds of dollars of month to use their services. And in a free market climate, there will be alternatives.
We used to have to sign a two-year contract in order to use our fancy smartphones. We’d get a discount, but we were stuck with the high prices of Verizon and AT&T. What happened? Companies like T-Mobile and Sprint, hoping to gain a competitive edge, started offering contract-free service. They’d even pay your fee for leaving your old provider.
Verizon and AT&T dropped contracts so fast it made our heads spin.
That’s how capitalism works. Companies don’t like losing money. And if their customers hate a service or product, they get rid of it. If a cable company starts throttling a service, or setting up fast and slow lanes (which they do already, BTW), or controlling what you can or can’t see, then you can dump them. They won’t like that much at all.
You see, companies have an incentive for winning your business. The government doesn’t. The government doesn’t much care that you hate paying taxes. Or that the lines at the DMV are long. Or that your local post office is run like crap. Ever try getting help from a government agency—even ones designed to serve Americans? Good luck.
The more power the government has over our society, the worse things get. There is no competition that would force them to do better (except in the case of the USPS, which isn’t funded by tax dollars). You can’t pick another government and stay in the U.S.
Internet Service Providers don’t have that kind of luxury. If they upset customers with crappy service, then they have to change or go out of business. The free market will protect the Internet from malicious practices.
Those guys supporting net neutrality? They want to create a precedent that allows them to manipulate government policy. If they hold the reins to how the Internet is regulated, then they have greater power to control what you see. Why do you think it’s all Internet-based websites that support net neutrality? They want to get their tendrils deeper into Washington. This “movement” is another way they can establish themselves as gatekeepers of this ever-evolving, innovative frontier.
But they are the last people to decide how the Internet should look. It should always be left to us: the people.