Net neutrality – Is it worth the loss of innovation and liberty?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Government, Technology | Posted on 20-10-2009

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Thursday, unelected bureaucrats will be making a major decision on behalf of the American people that can have far reaching implications to our freedoms. Here is an article from My Way News with my commentary.

Oct 18, 12:57 PM (ET)

By JOELLE TESSLER

WASHINGTON (AP) – With Democrats in charge in Washington, supporters of so-called “net neutrality” rules seem poised to finally push through requirements that high-speed Internet providers give equal treatment to all data flowing over their networks.

These rules – at the heart of a five-year policy debate – are intended to guarantee that Internet users can go to any Web site and access any online service they want. Phone and cable companies, for instance, wouldn’t be able to block subscribers from using cheaper Internet calling services or accessing online video sites that compete with their core businesses.

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday on a proposal by the agency’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, to begin crafting regulations to prohibit broadband providers from favoring or discriminating against Internet traffic.

Broadband providers such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. argue that after pouring billions of dollars into their networks, they should be able to operate those networks as they see fit. That includes offering premium services over their lines to differentiate themselves from competitors and earn a healthy return on their investments.

Genachowski’s proposal has also encountered misgivings among Republicans on the FCC and in Congress, who fear network neutrality rules could discourage broadband providers from continuing to expand and upgrade their systems.

“The risk of regulation really inhibits investment,” said Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell. Noting the agency’s estimated price tag of up to $350 billion to bring broadband connections to all Americans, he added: “How do we pay for all that?”

via My Way News – Hurdles remain as FCC ponders Internet data rules.

To start, what gives the government the right to tell private companies, who invest their own money in building these broadband networks, that they have to provide unfettered access to all internet users whether customers or not. This is rediculous enough, but let’s show how the free market would do this without the loss of liberty?

First, in most places there are multiple internet providers. For example, where I live in Pittsburgh, I can get internet from Comcast via cable, Verizon via DSL, Verizon via FiOS, and other providers of DSL and satellite services. If for example Comcast decides to limit monthly download to say 250GB, which they did, then customers will decide whether it is worth it for them to abide by their rules or switch to Verizon.

We make these decisions all the time. For instance, last year I switched from Comcast to Verizon for my internet. Why did I do this? Because Comcast thought they could hold me hostage to purchase all their services or rape me on the remaining ones. Surely enough the free market delivered. I dumped Comcast, went to Verizon for my internet, Dish Network for my TV, and Phone Power for my phone. I cut my costs and got more service. What government doesn’t seem to understand, probably because they only know force, is that the free market cannot coerce you into doing anything.

“Well, the internet is interconnected, and if Comcast decides to restrict access to a service that if offered by a competitor,  they can hurt the competitor even if the end user isn’t a Comcast customer. For example, if Verizon’s customer’s traffic has to travel over Comcast’s network to get to its destination, then that customer can be harmed even though they aren’t a Comcast customer.”

Hmmm, let’s think this through. If the internet is interconnect, which it is, would it make sense financially for Comcast to start a war with another carrier? Also, the internet is interconnected, but it is not one link. Most carriers have a plethora of routes to use to get to the destination they are seeking. They also have protocols that decide which route to take based on things such as available bandwidth. With this technology, they would bypass Comcast. (Warning: I’m using Comcast as an example. They aren’t the target of this legislation that supposedly is going to help consumers.)

Also, in a free market, companies are incentivized to innovate and offer new services because of profits. If profits are cut because of government force, then it is without a doubt going to cut into innovation, which ultimately hurts everyone.

Providers don’t only provide one solution. If they are providing phone services to businesses and end users, they must be able to meet that service obligation. If they are required to ignore those needs in order to provide “net neutral” access to their broadband, then those services become worthless. Those services cannot sustain, because they would be unreliable. This would decrease their profits (which we already explained hurts innovation), and hurt the consumers of those phone services. Now you have less competition in the phone service arena.

Government always seems to want to address problems that do not exist. Where has this been a long term problem? Where has the consumer, who has no right to these services, been harmed by the monstrous internet providers? I think one could argue that the most unregulated part of our lives these days, the internet, is without a doubt the most innovative and quickly advancing parts of our lives. This isn’t happenstance. This is because the government isn’t dampening the motive of companies to make a profit, not yet that is. It would appear that the government can’t stand to see a sector of our economy flourishing without it.

If you want the internet to continue it’s phenomenal advancement and betterment of our lives, I’d suggest you let your representatives know that “net neutrality” is disaster. Let them know your vote could be swayed by their stance on this legislation, and that internet service providers have delivered as promised in regard to our communications needs. We can decide what providers to use and punish ourselves. We do not need them taking our liberty in order to do it, which we already know they can’t.

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