About Net Neutrality

While browsing my news feeds, i found this rather unfortunate article about net neutrality on Forbes.

I think the author totally misses the point: his comparison to a supermarket chain and its offers does not fit well net neutrality current discussions, since it doesn’t account for the bad scenarios that could happen, and it only looks at what are few and questionable benefits. In my opinion, the examples that fit the most are two:

  1. Roads. Think about it: internet has often been called the digital highway. Would you like some private company to freely decide the routes you should take to get to a specific point? I understand American people, unlike us Europeans, strongly believe in a weak government, but everyone can see the success enjoyed by the Interstate Highway System in the last ~60 years. By the way, it was devised by a Republican administration, back when Republicans had still some respect for the American people, and not only for their lobbyists deep pockets.
  2. The Power Grid. It’s actually the best example i can think of, since, unlike roads that in the US are public, the electric grid is composed by many local companies. And, of course, electricity is treated equally along the wires, you get a certain constant amount and it’s up to you to decide how to use it: to power the light, the oven, the fridge, or the TV. It certainly would be nice to receive a certain amount of bandwidth and be free to decide how to use it. But wait! It’s exactly what happenss now with net neutrality rules enforced by the FCC.

Yes, the argument can be made that, like in a supermarket with its offers, abolishing net neutrality could benefit free market and competition, but not always it’s an advantage to the end consumer. While in a supermarket you can decide which canned tomato brand to buy, based on quality and price, and those brands compete between each other to get in your cart, the average American household only gets a single ISP. So it becomes more likely the opposite scenario:  the ISP could likely say “since i’m the only way you have to access the net, and i also own streaming service X, you can either watch a movie on X at full speed, or go to Netflix, but in that case i can only guarantee a third of the speed, unless you (or Netflix) pay me for the trouble”. Which in a way, at least to me, sounds like protection money.

Net neutrality is also often used as an excuse for poor investment in infrastructure. But it can be said the opposite: why spend money to improve the quality of service, when you can just limit other services and get the most bandwidth to your?

Frankly i am amazed by the willingness of Americans, a nation famous for doing whatever they want (“fuck yeah ‘murica!“) to let this happen. They hate to be told what to do, and they also hate government regulations. This time it’s a bit more compicated: if they want to keep their freedom, they need the government to keep, and maybe to extend, existing regulations.

If you are an American citizen, and you are against the proposed changes, you can take action by writing or calling your representatives. Join the battle for the net here.

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