The Uncertain Future of Net Neutrality and the Internet
Our country has once again come to a cross-roads.
Soon, the FCC will decide whether or not to repeal net neutrality.
We have been fortunate enough to have nearly unlimited access to the flow of digital information with only a small monthly fee. But, the internet isn’t free and never has been.
As a society, we have become completely numb to the thought that the internet is a right, instead of a privilege. We are increasingly dependent on the service every day. In fact, in 2015 then president, Barack Obama, said, “Today, high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
Up to this point, who owns the internet remains unclear. If the entire internet went down today, who would we have to blame?
The FCC’s ruling will determine to some degree, who owns the internet. This is a scary thought for many people, especially those who feel like they’ve been taken advantage of by their internet service provider.
If the FCC repeals net neutrality, ISP’s will be able to charge additional fees to website owners and consumers that determine the speed at which we browse the web.
Unfortunately, the answer to whether or not the internet should remain neutral is not as black and white as many think.
Fundamentally, repealing net neutrality rules promotes the free market. Having regulations in the first place goes against the idea of pure competition. This has disabled companies like AT&T and Comcast from being able to capitalize on the basic rules of supply and demand by restricting them for charging various prices based on web traffic. Whether or not they should do this is not the question. The idea of a free market is deeply engrained within the fabric of our country, so why are these companies unable to exercise such a principle?
Basic economic theory dictates that as demand increases, prices go down, which means that people will be paying lower rates for internet packages than before. Especially if people only use popular sites, like Netflix or Facebook.
However, this will only work in a purely competitive environment, meaning that the barriers to enter this industry must be lowered in order to get the desired effect. Otherwise ISP’s will be able to charge ridiculous prices and get away with it. Without competition this argument holds no weight.
Distrust in the System
It would be great if we operated in a purely capitalist society, but we don’t. There are reasons we have anti-trust laws – so that one company, or a small group of companies, couldn’t control an entire industry without competition. Unfortunately, there is very little competition when it comes to internet service providers, and the barriers to enter this industry are incredibly high. In its current state, if ISP’s were given control over the speed at which people can obtain and view digital information, they would have full control over pricing instead of the market.
The lack of trust consumers have in their ISP’s is what makes repealing these rules highly unattractive. If people didn’t believe that these corporations would throttle their internet speed, no one would have a problem. This distrust is warranted, as there are multiple cases where ISP’s have violated net neutrality rules in the past.
If companies were willing to take advantage of consumers when regulations were in place, what’s to stop them from doing it when the regulations are gone?
The idea of repealing net neutrality has put many people on edge and it makes sense. Many people already feel like they are taken advantage of by their ISP, so why would we want to give them any more power than they already have?
However, the repeal could lead to some pretty great things as well. Perhaps instead of paying a flat rate every month, it would be based on usage? This also opens it up to a variety of internet packages, like basic cable does. If you want more, pay more. If you want less, pay less.
Ultimately, a lot of things will change if net neutrality gets repealed, but just understand that the issues at hand are not completely black and white. It may not be as bad as people may think.