Net neutrality

There’s a lot of fuss at the moment about net neutrality. Let’s have a look at what some advocates of net neutrality have written.

Battle for the net 

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers like Comcast & Verizon should not control what we see and do online.

They don’t control what people see and do online. For example, before the net neutrality rules were passed, they didn’t block access to sites advocating net neutrality.

In 2015, startups, Internet freedom groups, and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC).

So pro-freedom groups are in favour of government regulation of the internet? I smell a rat.

 Cable companies are famous for high prices and poor service.

What is the standard by which the cable companies’ prices are too high? The customers of those companies pay those prices, so they prefer the service they get more to keeping the money they give up for that service.

 Several rank as the most hated companies in America.

This sentence was written as an argument in favour of net neutrality, so this sentence expresses approval of hatred. Net neutrality is a hate movement. The organisations listed as supporters on this page approve of hate. These organisations include Vimeo, Twitter and Netflix.

Now, they’re lobbying the FCC and Congress to end net neutrality. Why? It’s simple: if they win the power to slow sites down, they can bully any site into paying millions to escape the “slow lane.”

This sentence is deliberately and strategically vague. The use of the word “bullying” insinuates physical violence without stating it openly.

If representatives of cable companies are using physical violence, there is a remedy for that in the law already.

Otherwise, the cable companies are just offering a service. You can purchase access to their assets on the terms they offer, or you can buy those services from another company, or you can start a new cable company, or you can do without those services.

In general, a company should charge different prices to different consumers. For example, if Netflix is streaming a lot of data, then an ISP might have to increase the amount of cable it lays to provide that capacity. The ISP might charge Netflix more so that the cost of the extra cable falls on Netflix and its customers instead of falling on other people who don’t use Netflix. If the cable company can’t make such charges, then it has to charge non-Netflix customers more or cut back on the cable it builds. Why should people who don’t use Netflix be forced to pay for Netflix users or put up with shitty internet provision?

This would amount to a tax on every sector of the American economy.

That sentence is false. Taxes are levied by government. If you try to pay some other group instead the government to provide the same services, you be fined, imprisoned or killed. That’s what distinguishes taxation from charges levied by private companies. A private company can’t steal or destroy your property or put you in prison for going to a competitor, unlike the government. Comcast aren’t taxing anybody.

Also, if the advocates of net neutrality are opposed to tax, why are they advocating giving the government more stuff to do? That’s an excuse for the government to increase taxes.

Worse, it would extinguish the startups and independent voices who can’t afford to pay. If we lose net neutrality, the Internet will never be the same.

To get money, a company has to convince investors or customers to give them money. If a company can’t get enough money to pay for their internet costs that means they haven’t convinced people their services are worth more than the other stuff that could be bought with the same money. So net neutrality forces people to act against their values by sponsoring companies whose services they don’t want.

Save the internet

Yes. After a decade-long battle over the future of the internet, the FCC adopted strong Net Neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act, giving internet users the strongest protections possible.

But ever since then opponents have done everything they can to destroy Net Neutrality. And Chairman Pai — a former Verizon lawyer — is moving fast to destroy the open internet. He must be stopped.

The chairman of the FCC is a former Verizon lawyer. And Save the internet want him to have control over ISPs and so over the internet?

More generally, the people who know most about how the internet works are people involved in maintaining or using it on a large scale, i.e. – ISPs or companies that use lots of bandwidth like Netflix. So whoever is in charge will favour one side or the other, or he’ll be an idiot who knows nothing. None of those options are good. The government should have no control over internet service provision.

The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to clamp down on dissent. If we lose Net Neutrality, it will have succeeded.

The Trump administration is so evil that “Save the internet” want them to control the internet.

Conclusion

These arguments for net neutrality are stupid. Net neutrality itself sounds like people trying to get a free lunch by getting the government to steal other people’s lunch money.

UPDATE I read Elliot’s comment and looked into whether broadband provision is monopolised. In many places there are only one or two choices for broadband provision. I haven’t been able to find a lot of material on why this happens. I suspect the truth is unflattering for both sides in the net neutrality debate since neither side is explaining what’s happening. Some of the problems may be due to bad local government policies that make it expensive to lay a new network.

About conjecturesandrefutations
My name is Alan Forrester. I am interested in science and philosophy: especially David Deutsch, Ayn Rand, Karl Popper and William Godwin.

4 Responses to Net neutrality

  1. > What is the standard by which the cable companies’ prices are too high? The customers of those companies pay those prices, so they prefer the service they get more to keeping the money they give up for that service.

    You’re making false free market assumptions. US cable companies are government monopolies and duopolies. E.g. Comcast is my ONLY choice, there’s no competition, so yes the prices are too high and the service too shitty (and the customer service some of the worst there is) b/c it’s NOT free market pricing, service, etc.

    Comcast is so bad they threatened to terminate my service for a year unless I used less data. There was no option to pay them more money for the data. Their data cap policies have changed many times, and whatever it lands on, you’re stuck with because they have NO COMPETITION. (thankfully i discovered i could pay around 75% more money for less bandwidth and get a small business plan without a bandwidth cap, but there was literally no solution on a residential plan and no other company to go to instead. and the small business plan required paying for a new “installation” even though i already had cable from Comcast, i can’t just switch back and forth online, it’s separate.)

    Examples of comcast customer service (which was mocked on South Park, btw) are: the internet doesn’t work well, they send out a guy who fails to fix it and then charges me $100 for wasting their time (or, another time, fixes the problem then charges me $100 anyway). You’re only supposed to be charged if the problem is your fault… Then the guy on the phone harasses me for 30min to try to get me to pay the charge – but he can’t actually tell me any clear policy or any reason why the problem was my fault. Then he offers a 50% discount. Then he swears that, next time, I’ll have to pay (still with no reason why i’m responsible and no meaningful explanation of a policy). They’ve repeatedly billed me for stuff they had no right to bill me for, then been a huge hassle on the phone about it. They also don’t have tech support who understand what things like “ping” are – they only talk about internet “speed” as judged by bandwidth tests, but it’s awful trying to get help with packet loss, intermittent high ping, or generally any intermittent issue at all.

    The free market isn’t like this. Some companies like Staples do have shitty customer service – so I buy from Amazon and Walmart instead.

  2. > I haven’t been able to find a lot of material on why this happens.

    In the US this has been caused by government in many cases. Yeah both standard sides of this debate suck.

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