The internet seems to be at war at the moment, with the people who stand against Net Neutrality being seen as either stupid or greedy. It’s common belief that the people who are against Net Neutrality are only those who would stand to benefit from anti-competitive behaviour and stand to make a lot of money from deals that hurt the consumers of online content. This is not true.
Net Neutrality ELI-5
Net Neutrality is simple in principle. It’s essentially a pre-emptive regulation that attempts to stop anti-competitive behaviour to protect consumers from being prohibited from lawful content on the internet. That’s as simple as I could dilute it.
Net Neutrality treats the internet as a broken industry and subjects it to Title II regulations (although they excluded a bunch of rules within this). This essentially gives the FCC authority to control ISPs and prevent behaviour such as throttling and paid prioritization. By doing this, the FCC also implied that the Internet industry and digital economy was in ruin, to the extent of the electricity and telecom industries.
Net Neutrality exists to ensure that no ISP can have a monopoly over the internet and throttle traffic to specific services in favour of their own business. There was one major issue prior to Net Neutrality that followed this behaviour and I’ll explain it now.
Comcast, Verizon, AT&T vs FaceTime
There was one major issue where ISPs had been caught throttling customers and charging for access to specific services. This was with FaceTime. Several ISPs had been found to be taking part in this behaviour. It became a large issue and consumers starting complaining, loudly.
This caused an opportunity for other ISPs. Some ISPs had started advertising that they didn’t throttle your traffic. The result? Several of the ISPs that were throttling lost customers to the competing ISPs.
Moving forward, the ISPs who were originally requesting extra payment to use FaceTime stopped this behaviour to regain their brand and to bring customers back. This was before Net Neutrality and although it wasn’t perfect, it was already working.
Net Neutrality - good or bad?
I don’t believe that Net Neutrality is fundamentally either. I think that the original purpose of Net Neutrality was to pre-emptively regulate the internet to ensure that nothing unlawful happens. It was created to stop anti-competitive behaviour and essentially implied that the internet marketplace was going to remain the same forever.
This pre-emptive regulation will inevitably prohibit pro-competitive business arrangements. That’s because almost everything will be treated as unlawful, rather than being carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. Not only this, it will also reduce investments as the regulatory framework looks extremely heavy. This reduces innovation and competition in the space.
If you want the internet to look like the telecom and electricity industries, Net Neutrality will ensure that this happens. In my opinion, the internet was not broken before Net Neutrality and it won’t be broken after it.
What about Google, Netflix and Microsoft?
You may have heard that some big players have voiced their support about Net Neutrality. The biggest players in this industry are saying that they support it and that Net Neutrality is important.
However, who are to benefit the most from Net Neutrality? I honestly believe that it will be these large companies. I believe that these companies are fearful that ISPs will promote the ISPs content services above their own. I also believe that they support Net Neutrality because it’s preventing competition from becoming as large as themselves.
Why do I take this stance? These companies are massive advocates of DRM — the technologies and standards that are literally restricting your access to content. They’re creating these technologies and almost anything they do is with the intent to benefit them financially.
The fact that they push DRM but stand for Net Neutrality should give you a sense of insecurity. It certainly does for me. It signals to me, that these larger businesses stand to gain monetary value from Net Neutrality.
What about Throttling?
The FCC chairman has stated very clearly that they do not want throttling happening. They want to treat everything as a case-by-case basis. It’s what they call “after-the-fact regulation”. They will take action if they see anti-competitive behaviour or throttling. They will take action if the internet is threatened or consumers are being harmed.
You’re being protected. The idea of scrapping Net Neutrality is so that you can be after-the-fact regulated rather than pre-emptively regulated. I would personally compare this to innocent until proven guilty.
At the moment, everybody in the industry is being considered guilty until proven innocent. I’d rather see the entire industry innocent until proven guilty.
It’s not a massive deal. I believe that Net Neutrality was harmful but not by intent. I believe the large companies are pushing for it because it’s a financial incentive for them, given that they push harmful DRM across the entire internet.
If pre-emptive regulations were to be dropped, I am confident that the internet will grow at a faster rate. I understand that many people will disagree with this article. However, I believe we need to discuss this more. It’s not as simple as “I don’t want to be throttled”.
Here is an amazing video on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csK3KspB-6A
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