The Lie of Net Neutrality

In simplest terms, Net Neutrality (hereafter “NN”) is intended to prevent your ISP from treating any data differently – that is, they have to let you use the Internet the way *you* want to, not the way *they* want you to. Like all other interventionism, it’s a lofty goal and one that should have no serious negative consequences, right? Sure. But, like every other form of interventionism, the proof is in the pudding. No law or regulation should be judged on its intentions, but rather only its results.

First a Little History

NN was intended to stop a small handful of individual issues that occurred over approximately 20 years of the Internet – issues that had either already been dealt with by *other* laws, or by the ISP’s customers themselves.

In fact, since NN was passed in 2015 (a FOUR HUNDRED PAGE regulation, that only limits certain actions by certain ISPs) the very things that NN was supposed to prevent and had never been performed before were *actually* done by the companies that did not fall within the FCC Title II power grab (in other words, they weren’t ISPs so they didn’t have to obey the new FCC rules — and they were probably inspired to do it because the FCC told ISPs that they weren’t allowed!).

Oh, on that note…so the way the FCC created NN in the first place was by declaring a law passed in the 1930s to prevent abuse by telephone and radio operators somehow granted them the authority to (without approval of congress, mind you) determine what any ISP could and could not do with their own services. Other laws actually forbade the FCC from doing this, and congress had even taken this up for vote and voted against it, but the FCC did it anyway. Nothing like a runaway government agency that isn’t subject to checks and balances, eh?

Here’s a short list of some of the things that NN declares illegal:

  • the ability for your ISP or cell carrier to *not* charge you for data used (this is called Zero-rating) for services they work with (like Comcast not charging to stream movies from their own library). Even though this is just stupidly obvious for many reasons, it’s actually one of the primary reasons why NN is supported by the major front groups for NN.
  • the ability for ISPs to enter into arrangements to improve performance between their customers.
  • the ability for ISPs to create plans catering to unique market segments – like people that don’t want to watch TV over the internet, so they might be interested in a much smaller (and cheaper) plan – that’s illegal under NN.
  • the ability for ISPs to block content that their own customers request be blocked (such as online gambling, porn, lingerie sites and so on), because that prevents “potential” users at a customer’s location from being able to see an “unfiltered” internet. This means that McDonald’s and Starbucks can actually be fined by the FCC for preventing¬†people from watching porn in their lobby on their free wifi.
  • the ability for your ISP to provide free service to you in exchange for showing you advertisements or other revenue-generating options like your participation in their forums or being a customer already. Nevermind that this is how broadcast television *still* works (which also falls within the purview of the same FCC!), and that Comcast, AT&T and many other ISPs already have an insanely huge network of free wifi available to their existing customers (in violation of this NN clause).

This particular ad was actually created by a “prominent advocate of net neutrality” — that apparently can’t “math”

The way NN has been implemented is similar to having some people complain that Showtime and HBO aren’t available on their TV plan, so instead of simply ordering it and allowing those interested people the shows that they want included, the federal government declared that *nobody* could have TV services unless they also paid for Showtime and HBO.

Every single bill has gone up, and not a single person is better off for it…well, except for the ISPs that make a lot more money as a result. And, they get to buy out the smaller ISPs that can’t afford to *not* make traffic shaping arrangements with their backbone providers which are now illegal under NN.

I happen to run a hosting company. 3 years ago, before NN, I had near unlimited data included with my servers. Data was *cheap*. 2 years ago, after NN, the price has shot up over 30,000% — I get much less data on my servers now and don’t have that huge safety cushion, since paying for the same data cap would cost me an extra $8,000/month to get the same caps I had only 3 years ago.

Guess what this means? Web hosts have to increase their hosting fees, and their customers (anyone with a website!) has to find a way to make it worthwhile. Most of them will increase the number of ads that appear on their sites. Have you noticed that EVERY SINGLE SITE is now so ad-heavy that it feels more like you’re wading thru late night television than browsing the web? Yeah, you can blame NN for this. (But don’t deal with it – install AdBlock – it’ll also prevent a lot of malware since most malware is distributed through ads.)

Title II Vote

The thing is, the vote this week isn’t even on NN! It’s actually on Title II, the specific section of the Communications Act of 1934 that defines “common carriers” (aka, telephone services), and whether ISPs really fall within the FCC’s purview. The MSM, NN advocates, and other idiots, are deceiving the entire world by misrepresenting every single aspect of it and forcing the federal government to get involved, to prevent theoretical problems that just don’t exist or are addressed by other existing law.

You gotta ask yourself: is it more likely that with federal involvement the Internet will remain true and pure, or, is it more likely that this “mere” 400 page regulation is just the first volley of an incipient federal government program that’s intended to eventually allow them to be involved in every single IP transaction?

I can totally imagine the FCC declaring that, “in order to ensure that all traffic is treated equally, we need to have every byte that touches the Internet first pass through an NSA proxy in Utah…you know, for your own good!”

If anything, having the federal government dictate how and what you can do on the Internet is far closer to China’s ISP filters that are used to prevent access to ideas which the Chinese government feels threatened of, than it is to actual freedom. Yes, the 400 pages of regulations do actually mention that unelected bureaucrats within the federal government get to decide whether content is allowed to be blocked or not. It reads an awful lot like the federal government wants to be the arbiter of what is seen on the Internet, even if they did write it with a very polite tone.

Think of NN as making a law against killing someone with a ham sandwich. Okay, *maybe* someone has actually thought of doing that before. But it doesn’t matter, since *murder* is already illegal. The end result of a law like that is that every meat market has to finance or obtain insurance to cover ham sales on the off chance that they’ll have to defend themselves against fines for ham sandwich murders. They also have to carefully interview their customers just in case granny is planning on killing grampa with that “ham off the bone.” Liability = risk + cost + time, which means that the price of ham will necessarily skyrocket. All to prevent something that’s already illegal!

How will repeal affect us?

Costs for data will reduce in price again, which means that ISPs can lower their rates. Will they? Probably not. The smaller ones will, but the larger ISPs will just use this as a long-term fast-cash infusion.

Some of the larger ones might actually create plans for “light” users that significantly reduces their costs. A niche of new ISPs may actually crop up *just* for providing email+social media access at a super-cheap rate. Netflix or other video streaming services will probably open their own ISPs so they can own the “last mile” and significantly reduce their costs.

Is the 400 page regulation really effective at preventing those theoretical problems? No. Especially not, since some companies started doing the very things they said not to the minute the FCC created the regs! Removing the regulations will not prevent companies from being evil, but with the previous 20+ years as a guide, the fanciful issues that they’re concerned with are not going to happen anyway, or, if they do, there are existing laws to address them.

Will the Internet be set on fire or have its “tubes” tied if NN is reversed? Hell, no. NN is a stain on the internet, and is actually causing far more problems than it could ever hope to prevent. One thing is certain: the Internet is beholden to no one. Like a cockroach, it’ll survive long after we’re gone, whether NN remains or not.