Shoulda never let Big Nanny meddle with it in the first place, it was working quite well as it was.
The one thing we’re all told about net neutrality is that it’s meant to keep internet service providers from discriminating between websites, speeding access to some and throttling it to others. In theory, according to the ubiquitous fans of net neutrality, evil ISPs would charge content providers more to provide fast access to their sites, while also charging customers more, for reasons that are never made exactly clear.
The truth is that ISPs have been doing the exact opposite, with deals like AT&T’s, or T-Mobile’s Binge program, which didn’t count data used to stream Netflix, Spotify, and other popular sites.
Also, ISPs already provide super-fast access to the biggest sites on the web, from Facebook to Google to Netflix, even hosting their servers in order to give customers the fastest connection possible. This is why the debate is misnamed. ISPs already discriminate; it’s working fine.
The lawsuits make it even clearer that the advocates for regulation aren’t really looking out for the interests of the consumer. John Oliver once boiled down the issue pretty well. Instead of “net neutrality,” he said, the issue should be called “preventing cable company f****ery.”
He’s right. The real issue has nothing at all to do with network peering between internet giants (those direct pipes to Google) or free data plans. It is at best an attempt to control the behavior of cable companies, who have poor reputations.
We all know that cable companies offered terrible service when they were monopolies, and their service is still lousy where they’re not faced with competition. When they realized my brother up in Idaho was a cord-cutter, they jacked up his internet fees to $200 a month. In my neighborhood, where I’ve got a few options, the cable company called me up the other day to offer some extra premium channels for the rate I was already paying.
Competition in the market for internet service is still somewhat limited by the physical necessity of connecting your home to the network, but even a battle between the phone company, the cable company, a satellite company, and your cell service provider does a decent job of keeping prices in check. They’re all offering more of what we want for lower prices, and they’re about to face more competition still, once wireless goes 5G.
While the scare stories are legion — my favorite is a bizarre rant in the Globe and Mail arguing that the end of net neutrality would mean doom for “the resistance” — and the technical details are often mind-numbingly complex, this is still a simple story. Between 2005 and 2015, competition produced an 1150 percent increase in broadband speeds. Free markets and unfettered capitalism built out the fast internet. Now the government wants to step in and help.
It’s an old story, and we all ought to know by now exactly how it always turns out. It’s been demonstrated again and again and again: competition in a relatively unfettered, open market will produce lower prices, more innovation, and generally better results than government control each and every damned time.