Net Neutrality is Wrong

Written on May 10, 2014. Written by .

EDIT 5-15-14: If you believe that I’m using the wrong definition of “net neutrality”, see this comment.

Net neutrality is factually, practically, and ethically wrong.

I’ve never disagreed with the ACLU before, but if there is one thing that I’ve learned it’s that every organization has some kind of unfair bias to help unify it.

Net neutrality is factually wrong because it doesn’t exist. Every ISP I’ve ever used has offered multiple pricing tiers with different upload and download speeds. That means some users will have more bandwidth than others, violating the idea of net neutrality (see the Wikipedia definition).

Net neutrality is practically wrong because enforcing it makes the internet slower and less efficient than it would be otherwise. If ISPs can charge more for high-bandwidth connections, they will have the financial resources and incentives to upgrade their infrastructure to support them.

Net neutrality is ethically wrong because it means that low-bandwidth sites have to pay more to subsidize the costs of high-bandwidth sites. And it means that some people’s naive opinions on how ISPs should operate their businesses are imposed on ISPs by force instead of by free market pressures.

Ironically, the phrase “free and open internet” has been used frequently in support of net neutrality regulations, but imposing a law is the opposite of freedom. The correct way to “vote” for what you want is to vote with your money and only pay for services that you support. There is no need to fear the loss of net neutrality because the free market, consisting of all of our money-votes, will enforce the right level of net non-neutrality.

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4 Comments so far
  1. B Donald May 10, 2014 6:09 pm

    It seems like you’re argument is that, because it is possible to pay for higher bandwidth connections, the internet is inherently not neutral.

    It’s obviously true that higher bandwidth connections are available at increased cost to the consumer, but that doesn’t interfere with the popular notion of net neutrality.

    The neutrality that is at stake is the power of the ISP to unilaterally decide which content to deliver to the consumer. The consumer is responsible for deciding how much bandwidth they need or want to pay for; net neutrality protects the notion that, no matter what content the consumer wants delivered to their home, it will arrive equally fast as any other.

    When ISP’s have the power to decide which content to deliver at full speed, *even though the consumer has already paid for the delivery*, not only is the ISP extorting content providers to pay for access to the consumer, they also threaten the power of the internet to act as an open platform. One ISP might decide to scale back the speed of any website referencing political candidates that are in favor of net neutrality.

    The issue isn’t equal speed of access to the internet; the issue is equal speed of delivery, at whatever speed the consumer has elected to purchase.

  2. cspice May 10, 2014 6:34 pm

    Thanks for the comment B Donald. Your perspective is founded on the assumption that content providers and consumers are fundamentally different in some way. From the perspective of an ISP, there are just uploads and downloads. Of course content providers do more uploading and consumers do more downloading, but as a consumer I still do plenty of uploading. In fact, I run a small server from my house, so should I have to pay the same price as Netflix to keep my server running? Of course that would be crazy, that is why both the upload and download speeds of internet connections have pricing tiers. Your perspective attempts to divide content providers and consumers into “us vs. them” even though both categories are actually “users” of the internet and the categories themselves don’t even have clearly defined boundaries.

    Also when you state, “even though the consumer has already paid for the delivery” you need to ask yourself if that is really true. It would in fact be true if your contract with your ISP states that it is true, but in that case there is no need for net neutrality legislation because standard contract law already covers it.

  3. tjgoulet May 14, 2014 8:59 pm

    You need to do a bit more research. You are looking at this myopically and that’s not the point at all.

    This is very little to do with you as an end user in terms of what they are proposing BUT will greatly affect you once these poorly crafted rules are in place (and in several ways, most them boil down to limited choices and artificial cost increases).

    The issue is not the packages your ISP offers you. It’s the background deals it’s cutting with partners and competitors that affect the traffic before it even gets to your ISP let alone your home.

    ISPs are trying to double dip. Charging you as the customer and the content supplier on the other end that is trying to get it’s content over to you.

    This model will kill start up companies that cannot pay to play and it’s already affecting venture capitalist investment choices.

    Happy to provided sources if you need them.

  4. cspice May 15, 2014 5:02 am

    Some readers have suggested that I am not using the correct definition of “net neutrality”. Below are the definitions that I found for “network neutrality”. All of them are violated in the event that two users are running web servers at their homes and one user pays for a higher bandwidth tier than the other. The last three are also violated even if the users are not running web servers. This is how I concluded that “Net neutrality is factually wrong.”

    This is a semantic issue, but it is worth addressing because I don’t like the thought of an angry mob forcing legislation on companies when they don’t even know the definition of the rally cry they’re using. Furthermore, I think many people are being led to believe that the whole internet obeys some fundamental principal of neutrality, whereas the truth is that the internet is almost entirely based on a model where you pay in proportion to your usage, which is not neutral; whoever pays more gets more bandwidth. There is one limited sense in which the internet is currently neutral, but that is not the fundamental sense that some people seem to be thinking of (see the last two definitions).

    “Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally.” – Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu (creator of the term “Network Neutrality”)

    “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites”
    – Google

    “Net neutrality … is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.” – Wikipedia

    “At its simplest, network neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.” – Matthew Honan (MacWorld)

    “a neutral Internet must forward packets on a first-come, first served basis, without regard for quality-of-service considerations” – Cardozo Law School professor Susan P. Crawford

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