The Evils of Net Neutrality
On September 23, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission issued a forty-five page report entitled Preserving the Open Internet. This ruling by the governmental agency has precipitated a unique debate concerning Net Neutrality and, ultimately, who controls the Internet. The term Net Neutrality was coined by Columbia media law professor, Tim Wu, to describe the set of rules defining how Internet Service Providers execute their business model. The FCC claims the purpose of Net Neutrality is “to preserve and reinforce Internet freedom and openness.” (Commission, 2011). This benign sounding statement encourages a belief that government regulation will safeguard access and growth of online communications. The policy prevents Networks from blocking customers accessing specific services or offering upgraded access a higher subscription rate. Proponents of the FCC ruling argue that without Net Neutrality innovation will suffer by impeding access to websites and services to only those that can afford it. Another assertion is that all bandwidth have equal priority. This means all consumers would pay the same for Internet services whether they constantly viewed streaming High-Definition video or were simply checking their email once a day. However, the Net Neutrality rules would actually cause the problems they are attempting to prevent. Not allowing Internet companies to charge for premium services will bring in less revenue needed for further research and development. Also, permitting the government to implement controls over these companies will strictly limit the freedom they have to manage their own business model. Therefore, the effect of endorsing Net Neutrality guidelines will cause less innovation and more governmental restrictions of the Internet.
The Internet is not free. It runs on complex network equipment managed by several telecommunications corporations. The routers, switches, and cables are owned by these companies who have invested heavily in the massive network infrastructure. Internet service providers continue to spend billions of dollars upgrading these transcontinental networks. If companies are unable to collect the proper revenue from their subscribers, they will be unable to maintain or upgrade their equipment. This can cause many of the services consumers depend on to become slower or cease, altogether. Net Neutrality advocates claim that innovation will decline in the current situation. However, the Internet was initially developed by companies in a similar environment during the 1960’s. The original idea for what ultimately developed into the Internet was proposed by Leonard Kleinrock at UCLA in 1961. Kleinrock used the fledgling technology to send a message over this new network (Kleinrock, L. 1961). Because of the financial investments and resources of the time, engineers produced the scientific breakthroughs making today’s technology possible. If ISP’s are able to prioritize the data traffic of their networks, they can use their resources more efficiently. Doing so would in turn allow these telecommunications companies to deliver higher quality services to their clients.
Increased government control is another issue caused by Net Neutrality. The FCC attempting to enforce its policy could lead Internet service providers being fined for violating “Open Internet” policies. These rules state that all bandwidth is to be accessible equally to all users. An example would be if the government forced the post office to treat all types of mail alike, whether first class postage or overnight delivery. When service providers are unable to manage their own network requests, they will not be able to allocate the bandwidth needed for essential services. Technologies such as VOIP, video on demand, and teleconferencing would suffer Quality of Service issues causing them to be difficult to utilize. Government regulation might also prevent system administrators from adequately tracking illegal activities. This would include cybercrimes such as website hacking and software pirating which is responsible for considerable bandwidth allocation. By allowing ISP companies to choose how they ought to direct their resources, customers will experience improved security and satisfaction with their Internet connection.
In order to deliver the greatest service for the public Net Neutrality should be ignored. As history has shown, government regulation of technical industries has rarely been effective (Glassberg, 2003). The FCC has incorrectly characterized the Internet’s spontaneous market process by creating guidelines to “protect” what has developed without them. By treating all data as equal, ISP’s become less capable of implementing new technologies and cause government regulation to be further restrictive. Having a free and open Internet will encourage companies to invest in additional innovations and equipment upgrades. When companies are allowed to follow their own business plan, both the industry and the consumer win.
Commission, F. C. (2011). Preserving the Open Internet, Vol. 76, No. 185. United States of America, Federal Communications Commission. Washington D.C.: Federal Register. Retrieved from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-23/pdf/2011-24259.pdf
Kleinrock, L. (1961). Information Flow in Large Communication Nets. RLE Quarterly Progress Report, 1.
Glassberg, B. L. (2003, August 25). Berkman Center For Interne & Society. Retrieved from Harvard University: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/fallsem98/final_papers/Glassberg.html