Court of Appeals Shoots Down Net Neutrality

Well the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just shot down net neutrality. Internet Service Providers may now freely choke or block any sites they want. Perhaps a big dog blog wants to silence its competition, and it cuts a check to Verizon so that any competing site is blocked or slow to load on Verizon’s network. That’s now legal. Or what if ISPs want to charge a premium price to content-providers for quicker loading? That’s legal too. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has shot down net neutrality and upheld that internet service is an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” Information services are unregulated. So that’s that.

Since the last time I wrote about net neutrality, I have begun to have more mixed feelings about it. For one, net neutrality (also known as Internet openness) relies on the civil government to force private companies (ISPs in this case) to keep their services “neutral.” Though I think internet service should be neutral—because I don’t like the idea that dissenting or competing sites/blogs could be effectively silenced by a legal bribe—I also don’t like the idea that ISPs should be dictated to by the civil government.

I want ISPs to be absolutely transparent filterless conduits of whatever their customers want to access on the internet. But I want them to come to this conclusion because of voluntary market pressure. And there’s the rub. Because, in some places, there isn’t yet a robust competition possible. Some regions of the country only have one ISP available. Perhaps the net neutrality ruling will spawn more ISPs. But these new ISPs would have to develop a network, and that will require millions in capital investment. And there isn’t any guarantee that such an investment will pay off. Most people just don’t pay attention to things that aren’t there. If Google gets a fast lane and DuckDuckGo gets choked or blocked, most people won’t even notice. They’ll just use Google even more than they already do. And the current big boys of the internet will just get even more entrenched. With less accountability and less reason to innovate.

You can think of it in terms of roads. If all roads were privately held and operated, there would probably be tolls. Libertarians may say that those tolls would have to be reasonable or people would just boycott the roads. But that isn’t necessarily the case. What if the road is the only possible way available to get from point A to point B? You would have no choice unless someone built a road right next to the already-existent one. This could go on indefinitely until a company finally decided to stop wasting real estate and be reasonable. And the market could not necessarily or always force them to do this. Consider toll bridges over large expanses of water. No one is making roads next to them anytime soon. People just pay the tolls, no matter how expensive. What else are they going to do? Snorkel to work?

Similarly, the destruction of net neutrality could create a huge amount of unnecessary and inefficient expense. And the customer, as usual, will be the one that pays. What’s the solution to this? I don’t know. Do you think the civil government should intervene? Is the internet a public infrastructure (like the roadway system) that, according to some conservatives, needs government supervision? Or are we ultimately better off without net neutrality?

4 responses

  1. Net neutrality was and is Mis-information, and Dis-information both. Keep the camel out of the tent. Free markets are not always clean, but the actual person who uses the products will balance the playing field. Having intimate association with Big Brother, self regulation while again, not necessarily pretty, is the only way we can protect our lives and properties. Government is death to a country like ours and we are close enough to feudalism now.

  2. I guess it is a slipper slope. I like open access and free of any restriction. However, I could see blocking sites that are illegal (like underage porn). However, once given permission to block one type of site, they will be able to block other types.

  3. This type of question can be applied in a lot of areas, no? What about free speech? If you start to ‘regulate’ one type of speech, just because it’s unpopular, then it’s a little easier to start regulating other types of speech.
    I think the net ought to be an open system without any restrictions. Will people abuse that by posting kiddie porn sites and other trash like that? Of course they will, because people are still people. It should be up to the individual to know what they are getting themselves into. And if that kiddie porn site happens to be in a country or state that has laws against it, then they are subject to arrest and prosecution.
    Just my 2 cents…

  4. It’ would be nice if they “choke or block” the NSA but of course this probably is related to that to begin with….

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