One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
Latest posts by Seton Motley (see all)
- 5G Wireless Makes Net Neutrality Even Dumber Policy - September 16, 2019
- When Deregulation – Actually Makes Things Worse - August 29, 2019
- Localities Shouldn’t Be Dictating (Inter-)National Policy - July 17, 2019
Network Neutrality is a unilateral and completely unnecessary government-intrusion-and-imposition on the entirety of the Internet – and the trillions-of-dollars-economy that has arisen around it. Net Neutrality is one fantasy – based upon another.
Fantasy: The evil Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will – at some indeterminate point in the future – start blocking you from getting to certain websites. (In this way it is very similar to the global warming climate change fantasy. The fantasists have to threaten amorphous future menaces – because right now no such thing is happening.)
Reality: There are currently exactly zero ISPs blocking exactly zero websites. There have been all-time less than a handful of such instances – and just about all of those were of illegal-movie-and-music download sites. You want lawful content? You got it – no problem. Because ISPs are in the customer service business – if they stop servicing customers, they will very quickly be out of business.
The pro-government fantasists created this “Eeeeevil ISP” fantasy – to engender as much support as possible for another: Net Neutrality. Which is a top-down-government-only solution shambling around looking for a private sector problem – because none actually exists.
Net Neutrality mandates that every single website, electron and Web surfer – be treated exactly the same. Which is Socialism for the Internet – it guarantees everyone equal amounts of nothing. Imagine two houses on the same block: In one someone is brushing his teeth – the other abode is engulfed in flames. Net Neutrality mandates that both houses get the exact same amount of water (which would be great news for firemen everywhere).
So say a grandmother only visits a few low-density websites – and mostly just emails her grandkids. And the guy next door to her is Netflix Ned – who is constantly streaming HD shows and movies. Pre-Net Neutrality, the ISP would manage the network. Meaning they’d give Netflix Ned more bandwidth when he’s home and viewing. And when he peels himself off the couch for a Taco Bell run – move that bandwidth elsewhere where its needed. And never allocate very much bandwidth to Grandma – because she just about never needs it. All of which maximized the online experience for everyone.
Net Neutrality outlaws this very reasonable network management. (Sure, the Feds currently pledge a carve-out for “reasonable network management” – but when has the government ever passed up an opportunity to regulate?) So Grandma and Netflix Ned now must be treated equally – despite their titanically disparate bandwidth use. And since there’s no such thing as a free launch, Grandma will end up paying much higher ISP rates – to subsidize Ned’s flick addiction.
Which ain’t just great for Netflix Ned. It’s outstanding for Netflix – and other high-traffic video sites like Google-owned YouTube. Netflix and YouTube all by themselves chew up more than half of all U.S. bandwidth. Net Neutrality outlaws their being charged for so doing. Which means Grandma (and the rest of us) pay even higher ISP rates – to subsidize the profits of Netflix and Google.
The road to Hell is paved with regulations. And government action is a timeless tale of good intentions – and unintended consequences. (Though at this point one would be forgiven for oft thinking the intentions aren’t good – and the consequences not unintended.) The fantasy? Net Neutrality was imposed to help people. The Reality? Not so much.
One of the giant-bandwidth-hog web companies that foisted Net Neutrality upon us is Facebook. Which was an awful thing for them to do. But they are currently trying to do a very good thing – get (tens of) millions of people in India (and beyond) free Internet access.
Facebook’s “Free Basics” is an ambitious, noble project. Barely 20% of India’s 1.3 billion people have Internet access. (Tens, hundreds of) millions more – for free (my favorite four-letter word) – would be outstanding.
But it turns Facebook from an ISP user – into an ISP. Which, ironically, unleashes their former Net Neutrality fantasist cohorts – on them.
Mark Zuckerberg is watching out for his interests. Internet users should watch out for theirs.
But 80% of Indians aren’t Internet users – because they don’t have access. Wouldn’t Zuckerberg trying to rectify that be in their interest?
“Irrelevant” say the pro-Net Neutrality fantasists. So they are working to stop Zuckerberg from providing a billion Indians free Internet – to instead keep them marooned, Internet-free. It is for them far more important that their Net Neutrality Fantasy remain undisturbed.
More than 330,000 people signed a petition to oppose zero-rating and uphold net neutrality principles in the country and numerous Web and media companies dropped off Facebook’s offering in support of the initiative.
330,000 petition signers – versus a nation of 1.3 billion people. Not exactly overwhelming opposition. And that petition is – online. Which means these vituperative, interloping clowns already have Internet access – and are using said access to actively prevent a billion Indians from joining them online.
Thankfully, some people realize how absurd is the Net Neutrality Fantasy juxtaposed with India’s Reality.
(T)he real digital caste system is where the 80 per cent are excluded from what the 20 per cent enjoy. Is it better for a society to provide access of some kind to more people, or should a guarantee of the absolute principles of net neutrality come first, regardless of whether it deters private initiative to provide free access?
…(E)ven a limited form of access is better than none….
Given this reality, concerns over net neutrality seem elitist.
“Seem elitist?” No, they are absolutely elitist. Especially so when said access – is free.
This is not me reveling in the schadenfreude of Zuckerberg being hoisted by his former cohorts on his Net Neutrality petard. It is me asking new ISP Facebook to reflect on how stupid Net Neutrality actually is. And put its considerable weight behind undoing its stupid imposition in the United States – and all around the world.
We need more visionaries like Zuckerberg working to bring access to the world’s unconnected billions. As he is now seeing, government and its fantasies are a huge impediment to so doing.
Here’s hoping Zuckerberg will leave behind his pro-government, pro-impediment, pro-Fantasy Net Neutrality cohorts. And instead join with us – the pro-people, pro-uplift, pro-Reality contingent.