November 12, 2014

Net Neutrality is a Lie

More government regulation is never the answer to any problem. In very rare cases some very limited government regulation might help keep access to a resource or a market fair and equitable, but those cases have already all been regulated and in many cases are badly over-regulated. Consider the internet, without any government control or oversight (except for policing of child pornography, consumer fraud, etc.) the internet has grown from a handful of academic databases to a global telecommunications network that touches every country on Earth. The foundation of this success is complete freedom from government oversight. The only reason love, hate, courage, cowardice, and all the other elements of the human experience are readily available here in cyberspace after a mere two decades of growth is because governments around the world have not been able to create some functional method for controlling it.

Do you understand this? Seriously. Do you truly understand the power of this? The success of the internet is the direct result of zero government control!

There is a lie that has begun circulating recently. This lie basically goes, "Big companies are limiting access to the internet so we need the government to step in and protect us from the big companies."

Think about it. If you don't like your internet provider and you don't live in some place like France or China, all it takes is one phone call to change your internet provider. Right here where I live I can choose between MCTV (my provider), Time-Warner, Century Link, Armstrong, Enterprise, or half a dozen other companies. I live in rural Wayne County, Ohio. My four acres is surrounded by corn fields. Even out here in the middle of nowhere I have around a dozen internet providers, three television providers, and about two dozen telephone providers to choose from. This does not even take into account mobile phone companies all of whom offer smart phones and tablets with internet access. Why in heaven's name would I want the government to step into this wonderful array, pick out the "reliable" companies and force the "unreliable" ones into bankruptcy? I am being very serious here! Why would I want the government deciding that MCTV is too small to provide me reasonable service and therefore I must use DirectTV with Century Link and Verizon?

Even worse. If President Obama's FCC package is implemented and the internet becomes regulated under the same provisions as electricity and gas, then suddenly the FCC is now in a position to arbitrarily shut down internet providers they don't like while charging usage fees on those internet companies they allow to exist. Take a look at your cable/satellite television bill. On that bill you will see USF fee or something similar. This is the tiniest tip of an iceberg of FCC fees that are paid every step of the way to bring you a television program. The networks pay FCC fees per kilowatt of broadcast power, per minute of broadcast time, and per channel of broadcast use. Mobile telephone providers pay all of those fees, plus tower placement fees, bandwidth usage fees, and bandwidth control fees. All of these FCC fees are determined arbitrarily by the FCC without Congressional oversight or Congressional approval. If the President orders the head of the FCC to double usage fees, then usage fees double. If the head of the FCC decides independently of the President's office that they need to double usage fees, he does so, and only afterward goes to the President to request approval. If President Obama's "Net Neutrality" is implemented then the FCC can charge up to 16.7% of collected revenue for bandwidth on top of what they already charge telephone and television providers for the very same bandwidth!

If the FCC is allowed to regulate the internet then they can arbitrarily determine any differences between household access, commercial access, mobile access, fixed access, access speeds, access bulk, and all the myriad of other variables involved when you open a Facebook app or Facebook in your browser. Not only does the government now have the final say in who accesses Facebook, they also have the freedom to charge Facebook for each person who accesses it and for the amount of bandwidth they use during that access. The government already charges the telephone company that owns the lines for bandwidth usage. If they gain control over the internet itself not only will they continue to charge the telephone company but now they can charge the internet provider along with each and every internet content provider! Each and every one! All of those added costs will be passed directly on to you, the user. Content and access providers will have no choice in this. They must maintain profit margins to make payroll, cover the cost of maintenance, cover the cost of innovation, and pay dividends to their stockholders. Facebook will be forced to charge a subscription fee just to cover the combination of FCC bandwidth charges they pay directly along with those they must pay to whoever controls the servers that make Facebook work. Facebook, Twitter, every search engine you depend on, Wikipedia, Blogspot (who carries this blog), and all of the other "free" internet sites you use everyday will be forced to charge you for access because suddenly they must pay the government for access to you!

There is nothing "neutral" about designating the internet a Title II utility. The only thing it does is destroy the freedom you and I now enjoy. It gives the government the right to deny access to content they arbitrarily determine is "damaging to social mores" and it gives them the right to charge for access to the content they allow. The FCC now becomes the final judge in whether you watch YouTube, NetFlix, Hulu, Roku, AppleTV, ABC, or CNN. Suppose you enjoy NetFlix, a flat monthly fee for all the access you desire to television and movies. That will end. Instead, NetFlix will now have to charge you per show, for the time you spend watching, and for the bandwidth you use watching. Those flat monthly fees will vanish and will become per episode fees that are dramatically higher. NetFlix will have no choice in this matter. They will now be paying huge fees to the FCC and in order to continue bringing you movies and television they will have to charge you the cost of those fees on top of their current operating costs plus whatever they need to keep their shareholders happy.

Online universities and high schools will have to either raise fees or start charging fees. YouTube, Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Vimeo, the list is endless. Everything you now enjoy doing for free will suddenly have fees they must pay and they must in turn pass on to you. Network television, cable television, satellite television, will all dramatically increase their costs and in turn, the fees they charge. You think internet advertising is now endemic? If President Obama and the FCC pass their "Net Neutrality" package internet advertising will become the majority of content you have access to and you will have to pass through endless advertisers just to check your Gmail or update your Snapchat feed. How is that an improvement over what we have now?

Wired Online: What everyone gets wrong about Net Neutrality
Forbes Online: FCC plans stealth internet tax
CNN Online: Will the FCC ruin the internet?
Consumer Affairs: Broadband and Net Neutrality
FCC: National Broadband Plan
FCC: Chairman Tom Wheeler's response to President Obama's statement
Brian's Meandering Mind (December 5, 2010): Some thoughts on Net Neutrality