No, I’m not saying this just to get a rise out of you, I am actually against net neutrality and here is why:
Net neutrality is this principle that says internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally. I actually like this idea; I agree with it; I hope internet providers choose to treat all data equally. I agree that it provides greater freedom and opportunity to people using the internet and building businesses that utilize the internet.
But, I am not in support of sacrificing one entity’s freedom for the “greater good” of the rest of the world. Freedom is freedom. Internet service providers should have every right to be complete jerks and charge for the use of their services however they see fit.
No matter how much I generally despise ISPs, I can’t in good conscious argue that we should limit their freedoms in order to increase our own. Why?
… Because, the two are the same.
Once you are willing to go down the slippery slope of taking away the rights of others in order to placate the masses, you are in real danger of completely losing the idea of personal freedom. Our individual liberties can’t be evaluated solely on how they impact other people.
If we refuse to let people or entities deal with their personal property in a way that doesn’t suit us, simply because it doesn’t suit us, we will quickly have the entire world at a standstill, because just about every action anyone takes could be considered to be harmful or undesirable to another.
Now, normally I avoid political discussions on this blog. So, you might think I’m being a bit hypocritical here—and to some degree I am—but, this political discussion is deeply rooted in technology, so I am giving myself a pass here.
So, in essence, I am actually in support of the idea of net neutrality, I am just not willing to join the mob in stripping away the rights of legitimate holders of personal property in the name of an ideal all the while violating another, overarching, more important ideal: freedom.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the government shouldn’t ever regulate and prevent monopolies. I’m not trying to push a political agenda. I guess, I can just see myself in the position of owning a company that provides a service and being told what I can charge and how I can provide that service.
Perhaps it is because I am a landlord and I rent out property that I have a bit of a different perspective than most techies. When I hear about forced net neutrality, I immediately think of someone telling me that I can’t charge whatever rent I want for a property I own, because it isn’t in the best interest of the people.
Damn the people! I am in business to make profit and so is every other legitimate business in the world. Comcast, Verizon and the rest of the internet service providers don’t provide internet services to make the world a better place and to equally spread ideas and give you personal freedom, they provide internet services to make a profit. And, if you are a shareholder of one of those companies, this is exactly what you want them to do.
I didn’t bust my ass working extra hours, saving money and living frugally so I could create cheap housing for the poor, I did it to make money. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m a heartless bastard—I give away 10 percent of my income to charity—but, no one should be able to force me to do it. If internet providers want to be dicks, so be it—it’s their right.
I’m not afraid
Even if the internet service providers succeed in earning the right to charge how they see fit for whatever level of service they provide to whoever they want and “destroy the internet,” I think there is still hope.
I have a bit more confidence in the internet than thinking that just because internet service providers choose to violate net neutrality principles it will spell doom and disaster.
Think about what would happen if Comcast started giving Netflix a high-speed traffic lane in exchange for a hefty fee. First of all, it might not be that bad. I don’t watch Netflix, but I hear that most of the world does, so for those people, there might be some real benefit in getting super-fast Netflix.
But, let’s suppose that people don’t like their super-fast Netflix, they’d rather have all their internet traffic arrive at the same speed. They’d like their torrents to download just as fast as House Of Cards. What then?
Well, if there is truly a demand for net neutrality internet providers, it will be profitable for Verizon to move in and start expanding their service to unhappy Comcast customers. They’ll promise completely neutral internet access and people will pay for it.
I don’t think that will happen though. I think that if net neutrality disappears, we won’t even notice it. For the most part, it won’t affect small businesses who don’t generate much traffic anyway, and for bigger businesses, it will be worth paying some extra fees to deliver content faster. It might even bring down the cost of internet service for the end-user. (Especially if it creates more differentiators in the market and thus more competition.)
Plus, let’s not forget that internet speeds are increasing all the time and technology is not going to stand still either. Sure, they are lagging behind in the US, but Google is putting some serious pressure on ISPs with its fiber offerings. You can only consume so much “internetz.” As speeds increase, bandwidth issues become less and less of a concern.
And let’s not forget about other technologies like Clear, who provides pretty fast internet wirelessly. Just because big ISPs already have cables laid in the ground doesn’t mean that other companies can’t lay new cables and that internet service can’t be provided wirelessly.
Overall, I’m not really all that scared of ISPs providing unequal internet service. Sure, I don’t like the idea. I would rather if they didn’t, but I think the pundits are really over exaggerating the effects.
To all those naysayers out there
As I am writing this post, I already know what the likely response will be: A bunch of flaming insults talking about how stupid I am and how I don’t understand the big IPSs are monopolies and that we have to protect the people against monopolies.
How could I be against the internet being more free?
Well, it is pretty interesting because I have found that the people who claim to be the upholders of freedom the most seem to be the same people who secretly hate it. They hate that I could hold a different opinion than they do. They hate the fact that I don’t just go along with the masses and say that net neutrality is good and should be enforced—regardless of how we do it.
Like I said, if it were up to me the net would stay neutral. But, I believe more important things are at stake. I was against SOPA for the exact same reason that I am against the enforcement of net neutrality: we shouldn’t try to tell providers of a service how to provide that service.
But, like I said, this is just my opinion. I have pretty strong convictions about it, but I’m not beyond reasoning. I very well understand and accept that I could be wrong, but I’m not just going to assume I am just because everyone else on the internet says I am. And that is actually the beauty and real value of the internet, I can express my opinion freely, as can you. I don’t think Netflix streaming loading up a little bit faster than this blog post will change that.