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Net neutrality proponents’ ideals as contradictory as French Revolution’s 6/25/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Net Neutrality.

Those of you who read my blog know that I am very much opposed to net neutrality legislation because I want the Internet to be as free of government control as newspapers. After all, freedom from government is what the First Amendment’s free speech and free press clauses are all about. It literally took an American revolution to rid our newspapers of government pressure. And our wimpy, pro-establishment, network news programming shows the tell-tale signs of an FCC licensing procedure requiring the networks every few years to prove to political appointees they are “good corporate citizens.” For an example of how hot political talk can be without such licensing requirements, watch cable news.

Government regulation always begins with a call from those who claim they are only trying to right some hard-to-argue-against wrongs, but whose consequences are poorly thought out. Today we learn of a new such party, InternetForEveryone.org, which has a mission so contradictory that it almost makes my head explode. Their ideals call to mind the French Revolutionists, who called for “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” not realizing that liberty and equality are incompatible — that making people equal requires liberty-suppressing force. The new group calls for guaranteed high speed Internet access for everyone (a basic right of all Americans, they say), lower usage prices, more competition, and more innovation. Tell me, if we force Internet providers to give access to everyone, then force them to charge less than the marketplace tells them they should, where will the money come from for innovation? And what would happen to the potential profits that might entice others to join in the competition? Guess it will have to come from taxpayers and that government will have to run the show. InternetForEveryone.org claims to be neutral on the net, but it is surely not neutral on government — they want a lot more of it.


1. nicolas KB - 6/26/08

Hi Steve,

If you’re to lead the economic analysis a step further, wouldn’t you agree that an broadband internet in a household increase its members’ professional abilities?

Don’t people with broadband access benefit from it in ways that more than offset the cost of broadband? (eg, better education, more information)

As web-improved households pay more taxes, a broadband-for-everyone program would probably be beneficial in the long-run.

The trouble is, only 1 agent can make such an investment, and that’s the government.

2. Jim Johnson - 6/26/08

I support Net Neutrality only because of the ability for my ISP to block or delay certain sites simply out of economic necessity.

Let’s say Google signs a pact with Generic ISP to be the exclusive search engine for all Generic customers. In exchange for Google paying Generic a big pot of cash, Generic subscribers would be blocked from searching on any other search engine.

Or NewsCorp pays to block access to Facebook… or MicroSoft pays to be the only Instant Messenger service… or, gasp, the music industry starts paying to block illegal downloads.

There are not enough ISPs in this world to say the market will prevent this from happening.

Quite simply, the Internet will become filtered — and unlike China, where it’s government oppression, the filtering will simply be out of economic greed.

3. Steve Boriss - 6/26/08

Nicolas KB,
There are a lot of things that could be given to households that would improve their well-being — healthy and high quality foods, tuition for private schools, car insurance, PC’s, country club memberships, good quality mattresses, Blackberry’s, exercise equipment, etc. On what basis can we say that broadband is a right, and these are not? We have lots of government programs to ensure people have minimum household incomes, and broadband is a relatively low cost utility that can be funded out of that. And this keeps government away from controlling speech on the Internet.

4. Steve Boriss - 6/26/08

Jim Johnson,
Those concerns seem very theoretical to me, and I do not believe it is in those businesses’ interests to act like that. But once government controls the Internet, their movement toward controlling free speech is historically inevitable and irreversible. Why not wait until we actually know we have a problem before taking such irreversible steps?

5. Walter Abbott - 6/26/08

What we see here, Steve, is the result of years of indoctrination by the existing government directed media. That is government = good, business = bad. You had pointed that out some time back. It will take decades to reverse the influence.

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