Net Neutrality is not a free-market principle. For now, it is our best option.
The renewed debate around Net Neutrality is, like so many others, binary in the minds of its participants. You are either cool, have a Liberal Arts degree, read Slate and believe in keeping the internet neutral, or you are a stiff, on-the-take crony and (more than likely) an employee of the FCC.
The truth is, defending ‘Net Neutrality’ as it is currently legislatively defined, is simply an endorsement of more far-reaching government regulations on private businesses. Even in the eyes of the most ardent free-market capitalists, it ought to be viewed as our best option.
The logic is straightforward. Businesses should never have to apologize for, or justify, seeking new revenue streams as Ajit Pai, the recently appointed Chairman of the FCC went to absurd lengths do in a recent interview with PBS News Hour:
“And my concern is that, by imposing those heavy-handed economic regulations on Internet service providers big and small, we could end up disincentivizing companies from wanting to build out Internet access to a lot of parts of the country, in low-income, urban and rural areas, for example.”
Internet Service Providers (ISP) do not care about bringing broadband to low-income areas, nor should they. The role of any corporation is to be profitable and provide returns for their employees and investors. It is the job of the consumer to decide whether or not that corporation is worthy of his or her share of revenue. That is capitalism, lads.
Unfortunately, telecom joins only healthcare on the pantheon of industries least beholden to the rules of the free market. Simply put, we as consumers do not have choice (as anyone who currently pays for cable TV or internet can attest) and that is the fault of Washington.
It is the federal government who set such grossly high entrance barriers into the telecom industry. Even knowing that Google, Facebook, Reddit and Twitter have all successfully monetized ways to promote and suppress content and are still (humorously) the leaders of the the crusade for Net Neutrality, until the day some sprightly young start-up successfully navigates those aforementioned barriers, offering an affordable and neutral internet as an alternative to the giants, we have no real choice but to acquiesce. This is the final frontier of consumer choice.