Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the concept that ISPs should not vary internet speeds for users wanting access to different applications. For people who support net neutrality, the argument is simple. If the internet is a utility, then varying speeds for different products is akin to varying water flow to different kinds of appliances. For example, if all users of AT&T, regardless of plan get 1 GB/s speeds on Hulu and 256 KB/s pn Netflix, it would be akin to a water company supplying a fraction of flow to Whirlpool dishwashers compared to Maytag dishwashers. Clearly, the water company is trying to make Maytag a winner in the dishwasher business, just like AT&T would be trying to make Hulu a winner in the streaming business.

The argument against net neutrality is a) it would not cause ISPs to pick winners and losers, and b) it prevents certain business models from succeeding. The argument that net neutrality won’t cause winners and losers , as mentioned in the Forbes article, is essentially that market forces will prevent ISPs from choosing a preferred content provider over another. If AT&T were to provide slow access to Netflix, the idea is that consumers will just change plans. The argument that Dorfman has about net neutrality preventing certain business models from succeeding is not very specific and just about ends there, but there is a sense that net neutrality is harmful from the crowd that is against it.

  • If you are in favor of Net Neutrality, explain how you would implement or enforce it. How would you respond to concerns about possible over-regulation, burdening corporations, or preventing innovation?

I am in favor of Net Neutrality, and honestly I think the way to implement and enforce it would be to get input from the consumers themselves through the internet, like was mentioned in the EFF statement. It seems that the Open Internet Order put a clear stance on issues it was aware about: throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization. However for issues like interconnect points, the FCC said it would evaluate on a case by case basis because it is unfamiliar with such cases for now. I think this is a very reasonable thing to do, and definitely takes the more cautious stance to avoid over regulation. Of the three concerns mentioned, I think over-regulation is the most reasonable one. I think it would prove to be beneficial for the FCC to be more reactive than proactive in this case, which I think it is doing a fine job at. As long as the principles of net neutrality are well defined (no improper discrimination for certain apps, as stated by the EFF), then it will be easier to react to cases we have not anticipated, like zero-rating, than to legislate for the unknown.

The other two concerns I feel are less founded. The only corporations that net neutrality would burden are ISPs, but I’m not sure how much extra burden maintaining net neutrality would really place on them. Perhaps it will put more pressure on ISPs to more closely pay attention to their operations, but isn’t that a good thing?

The other argument that net neutrality prevents innovation is a little strange to me too. The Ars Technica article mentions that net neutrality only applies to “mass-market retail services”, so family plans and consumer plans, not for businesses. We’re talking consumer utilities here, like water or electricity. So if every user has equal access to applications, wouldn’t it be a level playing field for content providers to be innovative? The content providers can still have different payment tiers for different types of content? I’m just really unsure where the prevention of innovation comes in.

I do consider that the Internet is a public service. At this point I believe it to be a utility akin to water and electricity. In fact electricity is probably the best comparison. Electricity is generated and distributed by companies and powers products like toasters and microwaves. Internet connections are generated by companies and powers products like Google search and Facebook. It seems pretty straightforward to me to be quite honest. Why shouldn’t access to Internet connections be a basic right? In addition, just as electricity flow to your toaster doesn’t depend on what toaster you use, internet speeds to your streaming service shouldn’t vary depending on what service you use. Simple as that.

Like what you read? Give Tim Chang a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.