No One Is Neutral On Net Neutrality

There has been much reported over the last few days on the FCC’s adopting regulations governing “net neutrality.” In a 3-2 vote, the FCC (the 3 are Democrats and the 2 are Republicans, let’s hear it for bipartisanship) adopted net neutrality regulations on December 21. And because the adopted regulations are a compromise, no one is too happy about them. Folks who are big net neutrality supporters claim the new regs are too watered down and folks who don’t like government regulations generally are unhappy because these are, you know, government regulations. But what is all the noise about? Very briefly, the goal of net neutrality is to prevent carriers from discriminating against certain Internet providers. Here’s a basic primer. The fight is over high tech issues, but the philosophical debate is an old one – the 3 FCC members who voted for the regulations believe the big carriers need to be regulated so the little guys can survive. The 2 members who voted against it think it’s unfair to force the big carriers to essentially provide a free ride to the little guys. I have to say, that I found one quote from this Bloomberg piece sort of interesting: “[T]wo Republicans on the FCC . . . insist that the regulations are intended to fix a problem that does not exist, as all the major broadband providers have already pledged not to discriminate against Internet traffic on their networks.” Wow. What a concept. Is a pledge all it takes? Can we get rid of speeding laws if I pledge never to drive over 70? Should we go ahead and abolish antitrust laws if everyone pledges to never engage in price fixing? Call me cynical, but I’m not sure I’m ready to just take someone’s word for it on this issue. Especially when that someone has a pretty big vested interest.