Market Leaves Minimal Room for Net Neutrality

Eric Hass

Imagine trying to access an unpopular website you cherish and waiting practically forever for it to load. Then, puzzled by the delay, you google ‘internet slowness’ and Google loads in a split second. What’s going on, you think. Evidently, net neutrality isn’t in effect.

Net neutrality is the idea that owners of websites shouldn’t have to pay for the amount of bandwidth their users consume. If this were the case, then the biggest websites would pay more to send their content to users faster.  Net neutrality would make Internet service providers provide all websites at the same speed. Thus, rich websites wouldn’t have a competitive advantage over poorer ones. Congress must pass laws making net neutrality permanent.

Virtually every player in the debate, including the Investor’s Business Daily, has acknowledged the inviolate nature of this principle, at least for wireline connections.

Wireless connections’ fate is undecided. Google is reluctant to impose new constraints, and Verizon obviously doesn’t want to make a binding prediction for their future. Wireless connections ought to be under the same rules as wireline, because they are for the same purpose and will compose the majority of Internet connections in the future.

In addition, Comcast has posed no scenario that would necessitate the partnerships between content providers and access providers that now dominates every other system of media. With television, you must subscribe to different packages that consist of different numbers of channels.

When you pay the New York Times for your daily paper, you are paying the writers. When you pay Comcast for your Internet connection, you are not paying the writers of whatever websites you read. This is not a problem.

There is no valid reason that the Internet should follow their lead. Comcast also points to its current system of open access for wireless connections as an emblem of the company’s good intentions.

If they have open access now, as the system is rapidly changing, why not lock it in place by holding to their word and campaigning in favor of open access?

Comcast, as every for-profit corporation must, will eventually favor the most profitable business model, which isn’t net neutrality. This will likely include charging content providers for bandwidth usage. One of the most fundamental business practices is to get people hooked on something free, and eventually start charging for it. There is no reason that this won’t happen to content providers unless net neutrality is locked in now.

There is no financial reason that the millions of news sources available on the Internet should persist. But these news sources are some of the Internet’s few benefits. Indeed, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia has permitted the intrusion of corporate financial logic into the Internet by deflecting the F.C.C.’s attempt to stop Comcast from slowing down traffic of BitTorrent and sending them to Congress.  It is also unlikely that any forces in Congress will be able to give expanded powers to the FCC while personal responsibility with government funding is the go-to solution.