6 Ways Net Neutrality Preserves Free Market Principles

This week, the FCC announced plans to remove net neutrality requirements from telecommunications regulation.

First, let’s acknowledge the hilarity of a man named Pai releasing controversial plans the week of Thanksgiving that would cause people to devour him with relish. Truly impeccable timing.

Since Mr. Pai and others are framing this issue as a struggle between regulation and the freedom of markets, I’ve compiled six reasons why defending Net Neutrality actually upholds free market principles. If you agree, please call your senators and let them know.

Monopolies Undermine Free Markets

Free markets are wonderfully efficient at coordinating the self-interest of diverse people organically without overhead or oversight. But they’re susceptible to edge conditions that cause them to fail catastrophically, e.g. the monopoly. In many parts of the U.S., internet providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable enjoy monopolistic control of the telecom market. The lack of competition shows in the quality of their service, which is slower and more expensive than in most other developed countries.

Government Regulation Is Better Than Comcast Regulation

Mr. Pai has stated that the federal government needs to stop “micromanaging the Internet.” Normally, this would be fine, since in most industries displeased consumers can vote with their wallets and corporations will bend over backwards to earn their dollars back. But given the lack of competition in the telecom space, consumers will find it very difficult to make themselves heard, and giant players will make their own rules at will.

Government Transparency Is Better than Comcast Transparency

Freedom of information is an important aspect of free markets—having clear choices empowers consumers to tell the market what they want. Mr. Pai’s proposal stipulates that ISPs would have to be transparent with the public about their offerings. Given my Comcast bill, I’m rather skeptical of their ability to meet that requirement. I can’t think of a company more notorious for using nickel-and-dime tactics to obfuscate what consumers will actually pay and what they’ll receive.

Selective Deregulation Is Not Freedom

Comcast and TWC don’t want a free telecom market. They want freedom to seek rent on their vast infrastructure and freedom to quash competitors. In a truly deregulated market, I resell my Comcast bandwidth to you for whatever price we agree upon. How likely is it that telecom giants would allow such basic market freedom?

Free By Fiat Isn’t Free

Free markets are about the freedom of consumers to shape the market to meet their wants and needs. The proposed action to end net neutrality is a unilateral, authoritarian move against a clearly articulated public mandate. Voting with your wallet is a powerful form of self-determination, but it shouldn’t supersede the political representation of our collective will.

Free Markets Aren’t For Sale

The Internet is itself a marketplace. To remain a free one—with its prices and offerings negotiated organically and authentically—it must be maintained as a neutral common space. ISPs are lobbying to own that marketplace, to charge people rent for their stall. The natural consequence is that small players will be forced to drop out, greatly reducing competition and innovation. There is no alternative marketplace with the same reach and availability.

Make them pay.

Telecom giants are lobbying to rest on their laurels, to squeeze more cash out of their infrastructure without contributing new value to the market. In the words of one infamous world leader, this strikes me as “highly un-American.”

A truly free market would mercilessly punish any merchant who tried to offer such a bad deal. If you don’t like it, let your voice be heard. Contact your representatives and make your position clear.

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