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An Introduction to Network Neutrality

Network Neutrality

The idea of network neutrality is complicated but let me do my best to explain it.

Telecommunications companies built wired networks and are developing wireless networks that connect users around the globe. These networks cost a lot to build and cost a lot to run and because of that reason, plus a few others, you don’t have a lot of choice on which network you use to connect to the Internet. However, because the Internet is open and free of a lot of regulation, you can do many things across these networks regardless of how you connect.

The telecoms would like to tier pricing, charging more to the people who use the most bandwidth and offering innovative new services to those people willing to pay. Many left-leaning individuals believe this is a nefarious plot to prioritize content so that corporations will determine one type of traffic is more important than another. They believe telecoms will give terrible service to low paying customers and block access to data that competes with their business interests or taxes their networks.

This is a problem that doesn’t exist now, never has and there is no reason to believe it ever will. Right now you can pay for different connection types, from dial-up (yes it still exists) to massive pipelines that run office buildings. Despite these tiers and differences in speed, users can connect to information freely. Meanwhile out of the billions of packets of information that have been transferred over these networks, the number of known cases of telecoms interfering with service quality or with types of data are virtually nonexistent. Still, proponents argue, networks just might start and preemptive action must be taken.

Their solution to the problem that doesn’t exist? Government regulation and lots of it! There are various plans for how government regulation would work. Largely the current way being explored would re-classify what telecoms are, moving them from being regulated more like cable companies to being treated more like telephone companies. This would largely be a step back. Widespread government deregulation lead to the ability for companies to provide integrated data services, opened the marketplace and removed the threat of massive regulation like the kind that kept phone companies stagnant monopolies for so long. Network neutrality would run counter to the innovative and hands off nature of the Internet.

Proponents also ignore that government does, has, and will continue to regulate speech and access to information in all other forms of communication it heavily regulates. Government has been repeatedly guilty of doing things proponents of network neutrality claim the telecoms would be guilty of if allowed to have continued control over their networks. Government has repeatedly given preferential treatment to segments of the population over others and has attempted many times to silence dissent and speech through legislation and intimidation. Meanwhile the free and open Internet is far more conducive to free speech than the heavily regulated airwaves allocated to television and radio.

There are some companies, Google being the largest, who are in favor of network neutrality, specifically the idea of forcing telecoms to treat all data neutrally. Why is Google for this? Put simply, broadband providers would like to offer high-speed premium services like video-on-demand. Google owns services like YouTube and does not want competition it presents as “unfair.” They fear these telecom provided services would be given higher priority and will offer better quality to paying customers.

Google came out with a blueprint for its vision of network neutrality developed along with the company Verizon. They proposed placing wired service under heavy government regulation but also proposed leaving wireless networks free and open. Google is also a wireless phone company providing software and services. They could benefit from tiered pricing and prioritized data if they partner with preferred phone carriers who can offer innovative and exclusive features not found in other devices and on other networks. So Google, for our example, is for network neutrality when it benefits their interests but not when it conflicts with them and is proposing a plan that uses government to divide industry for its benefit under the guise of altruism. This is important as many network neutrality proponents will argue that “heartless’ corporations are solely stopping network neutrality for their benefit. The truth is, many other companies are seeking to benefit by using government to take away control of privately owned infrastructure to benefit their business. This is the classic Marxist agenda of, “From each according to his ability to each according to his need.”

Network neutrality is not a “preservation” of the Internet as proponents claim but instead a radical altering. The Internet we have has lead to never-before-seen innovation and openness. Light on government regulation, it has influenced every aspect of society and revolutionized commerce. Network neutrality would stop innovation by placing barriers and restrictions on networks and their owners.

Leftists look at the vastness and complexity of these networks and find, as they do in all things, inequity because it lacks perfection. While broadband is not available everywhere innovation on the Internet has spread at lightning speed and at rapidly declining cost to consumers who use it. The limited regulation Internet has radically provided to most people, most of the time. It is not in the interest of telecoms to stop this and until they do government has no right to take over their networks. Network neutrality runs counter to capitalism, will lead to the growth of government intervention and could actually change the Internet into something unrecognizable and less valuable to consumers.

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