Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality has been something of a major topic in some of the areas of the internet I visit. Unfortunately, I have yet to see anyone truly address the actual cause of the issue.

So, first, what is the issue?

Big internet service providers, currently, can limit the traffic of various companies. So Comcast could force Netflix's traffic to be slow. The ISP's want to take advantage of this, and charge companies like Netflix lots of money to keep their traffic fast.

The FCC tried to stop this from happening in a manner that overstepped their authority. They were sued, and rightly lost their case.

Net Neutrality advocates started yelling about the end of the world because of that. And I've seen lots of calls for the FCC to make new regulations enforcing it.

So, what is Net Neutrality? It's the concept that all traffic is treated the same way. The traffic from Joe Schmoe Inc., is treated the same as the traffic from Google. 

Sounds like a decent plan, right? Well, don't get caught up in the hype quite yet.

See, internet traffic is really really complicated. Ultimately, ISP's need the ability to manage their traffic in a manner that gives their customers the best experience. 

If Net Neutrality is enforced in the manner it looks like advocates want, then innovation in how traffic is managed will get slowed down or stopped. Your desired for ever faster speeds might never be fulfilled. 

That said, if ISP's get their greedy way, you also might not get your wish.

Then, I have ask, does the Government have the Constitutional authority to enforce Net Neutrality? After all, ISP's are private companies. They are managing private property. Is Net Neutrality worth increasing the Governments power?

Does the Government even have the technical know how to create regulations that don't stifle innovation? 

Frankly, I don't think so. Just look at the mess they made of Healthcare.gov. Do you really think they can figure out something many, many times more complicated?

Ultimately, though, these arguments all miss the main cause. And that cause is the way that the ISP's have monopolies on various areas of service. If I want real high speed internet, I have to buy from Comcast. Every other option is 10+ times slower. If I lived in another area, I wouldn't be able to choose Comcast, I'd have to choose Charter Cable, or maybe Verizon. But I'd almost always only have one real choice.

That means that if they implement policies like forcing Netflix to bribe them for fast speeds, I have no place else to take my business in order get better service when Netflix rightly refuses to pay.

And that is where the Government could do some good. Not necessarily on the Federal level, but on local and State levels. They could figure out if it's legal and ethical to force Comcast to share the "Last Mile" of cable so that new ISP's could start up and provide competition. They could build their own ISP's. They could increase fees for stringing/burying cable on public land unless the companies shared. And so on.

Basically, they could work at getting rid of the obstacles that stand in the way of strong competition between ISP's. With strong competition, not only would the evil specter of traffic speed bribes be banished, but the ISP's would have to provide better service and prices.

TL;DR: Big ISP's want to be greedy in a very detrimental way, but Net Neutrality as a Government Law/Regulation has too many downsides for it to be a power we should grant the Government. The solution is increased competition between ISP's. That would solve the problems that Net Neutrality advocates are concerned about.