by Mark Angelides
We are hearing arguments for and against the rollback of the Net Neutrality laws, but what is the reality. And more importantly, why are we ignoring the other 30 plus countries in the world that have already tried this?
As FCC chairman Ajit Pai seeks to repeal the latest regulations on how the internet can be delivered, it seems that not a single person involved in the debate is putting forward a solid argument one way or the other. It is clearly not because they don’t know them (they’re not that hard to find), so could it be because they don’t want to turn the public to make an “informed decision”? And why would that be?
Opposition to the repeal is mostly coming from the political left. Figures like Nancy Pelosi, Jessica Rosenworcel and Tulsi Gabbard are essentially making the same argument that a lack of regulation will led to discrimination against the poorest folk. It’s an emotional appeal that whilst effective, ignores the basic realities of the situation.
The political right is trying to sell the idea that when companies are free of regulations, they will invest trillions of dollars that will herald a new digital revolution for the betterment of all mankind.
Both of these viewpoints are flawed.
Net Neutrality laws have been tried and tested around the world (most notably in the European Union nations), and the results are varied. The distinguishing factor comes down to whether or not the governments treat the internet as a utility to be administered by the state.
Besides a very few exceptions, most state run utilities are ill-managed, over budget, struggling for talent and investment, and in a state of managed decline. Yet markets that are completely free from regulation can implode spectacularly leaving an enormous void that only the brave dare step into.
Treating the internet like a utility will, without a doubt, hamper investment and lead to a stagnation of the available technologies in America (who will then need to become a customer to private companies overseas for the usage of any new developments). Nationalizing services ends up being costly to the end-user as private investment is inevitably needed to keep it afloat.
And although it is true that a free-market approach will lead to more investment and innovation, you can be sure that those who can’t afford the INITIAL fluctuating costs of new technology will suffer poorer service and access.
The reality is that a rollback will impact the poorer people in inner cities the most (although small Wifi firms in rural America might see immediate benefits), but these will be short-term disadvantages. In the long run, everyone benefits from markets competing with themselves to make a product or service that gives the best transactional benefit to the consumer.
by Mark Angelides