Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Net Neutrality

The debate is continuing over the idea of net neutrality, as the President has ordered the FCC to take what steps it can to prevent internet service providers from favoring some content over others.  As the New York Times explained it:

The Federal Communications Commission, Mr. Obama said, needs to adopt the strictest rules possible to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down legal content and from allowing content providers to pay for a fast lane to reach consumers. That approach, he said, demands thinking about both wired and wireless broadband service as a public utility.

This is such a thoroughly modern debate-- an issue that didn't even exist just a few decades ago.  

Is there a principled argument against net neutrality?

If your principle is "unregulated free market", also known as "them that has gets", AKA "income should go to the wealthy and powerful".

Also known as "screw the poor and middle class".
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Not really. In other countries, the government builds the broadband network and private companies leases capacity who then market it in a variety of plans and prices. Speed is higher, prices are lower.

I'm afraid the "private internet" makes about as much sense for the good of the nation as a private freeway system.

I grew up in a town that was connected to the SF Bay Area by a privately-owned toll bridge. The state bought it in the '60s and built a twin bridge alongside. A couple of decades later, the state had to tear down the original bridge -- long before its operational life should have ended -- because the private company had done very little maintenance in the 30 years that it had owned the bridge, pre-aging it. Maintenance got in the way of profits.

Net neutrality -- if private industry can't take it, then gov't will have to step in or we (continue to) head in a third-world direction for 75 percent of the population.
In general, I lean left and I suppose I should favor net neutrality. However, based on my limited understanding, companies are interested in buying more bandwidth so that I can effectively enjoy high-bandwidth products like streaming television, i.e. netflix and the like. In that specific instance, I may favor the result. If I can get that with net neutrality, ok. But I don't want the internet to work like the VA.

I think a principled approach, (but not the only) would be something along the lines of what we do in America, regulate private industry. So you could have something less than total net neutrality, allowing companies like netflix to get their product to me on time, and without interruption (it is all about me afterall) but regulate it in such a way that it is not a hinderance to others.

All of that being said, I don't have enough technical information to have a solid opinion, and would appreciate more information.
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